This weekend I was interviewed for a segment on NPR's All Things Considered regarding that #browntwitterbird who won't quit. (Get caught up on your Twitter bird history by clicking here.) The story features myself, Jack & Jill Politics co-creator Baratunde Thurston and Alicia with Instant Vintage. It also contains insight from the Slate.com tech writer who started this whole mess. (He was just curious! Geez, why y'all takin' being a fetish so darn personal! You'd think black people had some history of everyone taking rote, boring things we do and writing 15-part essays, funding government studies and writing epic "white people tweet like this" but "black people tweet like this" jokes.) The story will air this afternoon, but you can read what myself and Slate's Farhad Manjoo said here.
When asked by NPR's Sam Sanders why he wrote the piece for Slate, here's what Farhad Manjoo had to say:
"I was bound to offend people with this article," Manjoo says. "But I thought that it was kind of worth a risk to ask and perhaps answer some interesting questions."
His question was why so many popular topics on Twitter, called hashtags, seem to come from blacks, specifically black youth. Manjoo says he made that observation by checking out the Twitter profile photos of tweeters taking part in the popular hashtags.
"Young black people are not a group of people I see every day," Manjoo says. "I don't have any teenage black friends. And the fact that they were kind of part of this conversation just a click away from me was something that I was very interested in. I was seeing trending topics every day that were dominated by black people."
When Sam and I talked on Saturday about Manjoo's story and the meme it spawned I mentioned that Manjoo was making the mistake of fetishizing something that is easily explained by human nature. The phenomenon he saw with black teenagers wasn't really that different from white teenagers on Twitter working together to keep Justin Bieber in trending topics, but he didn't find that interesting. He found the "exotic other" interesting of black people cracking racialized jokes to each other interesting because it was unfamiliar to him. Which seems kind of short-sided considering Manjoo is a member of a cultural group that is also often reduced to being the "exotic other," put under a microscope and constantly fetishized by people who think being any kind of minority is full primal "magic."
My response was pretty simple: There is not a special, racialized way to use Twitter.
"It's like a black person on a bike — I've never seen that! Black people ride bikes? There's a black guy on a skateboard? Black people ride skateboards?! And it becomes a sort of thing. But no, they're on a bike and a skateboard for the same reason why anybody would be on a bike and a skateboard. There's no special, racialized way of skateboarding or riding a bike, and that's the same way it is with Twitter."
That said, one more time, with non-racialized feeling: Follow me on Twitter @blacksnob!
Also: I think out of all my press interviews about 80 percent of them are shootin' the breeze about the First Lady. Just check out CNN and you can read "The Tricky Path Forward for Michelle Obama" by clicking here. I'm quoted there along with shouts to MichelleObamaWatch.com and MichelleHuxtable.com.
UPDATE: The audio link to the NPR story is up. I'm all happy and talking super fast because ... ahem, that's how I talk in real life. Lord only knows how loud I was.