I’ve been in San Francisco for two and a half years and I feel I am withdrawing. I don’t think I fit in here. I spend a lot more time alone than I did in my former life in Los Angeles.
This past year has been particularly isolating as America’s longstanding simmering racial tensions bubbled up to the surface with a vengeance, ignited by Michael Brown’s murder last summer. After which, conflicting emotions of hopeless grief and building fury alternately gnawed at me.
Facebook, on which I was still somewhat active at the time, was a sickening cesspool of cruel, ignorant and outright racist commentary. Or silence. It incensed me how mute some people I followed appeared to be on the subject of police brutality and racism. And if I had to read one more disingenuous, noncommittal: “We don’t have all the evidence yet,” I was going to go mad. Y’all wait around for the evidence, others of us are already awake to what is going on and demand justice.
My isolation threatened to crush me. I didn’t know what to do, but I had to do something. Unfortunately, no one in my small San Francisco network seemed as activated as I was.
I found solace in “black Twitter.” That population of other tweeters united by shared cultural influences, social experiences and united by inclusion in the most disparaged racial group. People from all over the world, not just blacks in the US, with whom I could commiserate; microbloggers who so eloquently voiced the emotions many of us struggled to express; a group of people who wouldn’t try to convince each other that racism is just in our heads. I found comfort in those whose views align with my own, including my belief in the importance of standing up for what’s right.
With each tragedy black Americans suffer, the number turning to the internet for support grows larger. After the recent terrorist attack on the 9 churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, black Twitter was a virtual community in mourning. For some, it is the only space they have to somewhat safely* discuss topics which too many in the offline world try to avoid.
My youngest sister sent me a beautiful post written by a friend of hers which he’d shared on Facebook. It encapsulated the words that I, the “writer”, couldn’t find. I asked her to get his permission to tweet it. As much as his language resonated with me, I knew others would find comfort in it too.
I didn’t anticipate just how much.
— Keisha (@texafornianycer) June 18, 2015
That is my most retweeted post in my almost seven years on Twitter. Clearly it struck a chord with many. The replies touched me. To think that so many of us live significant portions of our lives in spaces where we feel isolated and misunderstood is quite distressing.
A few weeks ago, when Rachel “black by spray tan” Dolezal’s “Soul Woman” offense came to light, some of her defenders were quick to
lecture remind us all that race is a “social construct.”
Yes, it is a “social construct” and that social construct makes real life more difficult than it should be for some of us. So much so that it sometimes threatens our mental and physical health, even just as observers.
Without Black Twitter, I shudder to think how far off-center I might be today. I’m grateful for the activists – accidental and otherwise, the educators, podcasters, YouTubers, influencers and entertainers, the natural comedians, writers and bloggers, and the other everyday people across the type of economic, gender, age and educational lines which might otherwise divide us, who inspire and encourage me to keep my head up even when the world seems to have sunk to it’s depths.
*Trolls who actively seek out and target black people on Twitter are a serious problem. I will cover this topic in a future post.