It’s been well reported that Black Twitter has become a force to be reckoned with.
This incredibly witty and educated group is responsible for sidelining Food Network star and Antebellum South enthusiast Paula Deen, and presumably ending the career of PR executive Justine Sacco, who famously tweeted before a trip to South Africa:
When it comes to checking “casual racists” and white privilege, Black Twitter is present and ready to put folks back in their place.
As mentioned by Politini in a recent video, there are three tactics that have defined the power of Black Twitter—namely to shame, set the record straight, and educate. We just saw the power of this play out yesterday when a tweet from Christina Fox, known on Twitter as @SteenFox, sparked a spontaneous debate with a follower about sexual violence towards women. That debate in turn prompted a massive discussion and impromptu campaign that dispelled the myth that a woman’s attire can entice sexual violence.
We are witnessing in real time the influence Black Twitter has on careers, the success of television shows, and educating the masses. But the question remains: can this digital authority sway elections?
Political analyst and avid tweeter Zerlina Maxwell has high hopes saying, “For the midterms, my hope is that we use social media as a tool to engage communities of color that all of the pundits are saying don’t vote in midterm elections. I think Black Twitter has real power, beyond popular culture, and I think the midterms are the perfect opportunity to show it. I think that we can use all platforms–Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat—to engage folks and make sure they know what’s at stake, make sure they are registered to vote, and that they are reminding their networks to register as well.”
Can Black Twitter’s infamous shaming tactics help to hold politicians accountable to their constituents and get them to focus on issues that matter to the American public rather than grandstanding?
Midterms have largely had 40 percent lower voter turnout rate than in presidential years, which diehard conservative voters have taken advantage of. With the domino effect of retirements of long-time members from Congress, a space has opened for Tea Party radicals, who have been riding the “bash Obama” wave, to ride right in to Washington.
According to Mychal Denzel Smith, Nation fellow also named by Complex Magazine “a Twitter account to watch,” shaming may just be what we need during midterms.
“The greatest tool Black Twitter has in its arsenal is the power of social shaming. There’s a rapid response when public figures say or do things that run counter to the ideas of justice and equality, and Black Twitter has pretty much perfected that response, made pariahs out of certain figures, and demanded action. So if there’s some value to that in electoral politics, it’s that Black Twitter can call politicians to the mat for their particularly odious views and educate the public, so far as the Internet goes.”
Well, midterm election season is off to a start with Conservatives leading in the polls in important states like Texas.
With just eight months to go until election day we will see if Black Twitter can shame elected officials into action and get them to offer the American people more than grandstanding, sound bites and a reading of Doctor Seuss.
Danielle Moodie-Mills is the co-host of Politini, a politics and pop culture show bringing audiences the personal side of politics. She is also an Advisor at the Center for American Progress for racial justice and LGBT equality. Her writings have been published in The Atlantic, Essence, Huffington Post , Ebony and more. Follow her musings on Twitter @DeeTwoCents and learn more at www.moodiemills.com