The racially stereotypical Twitter account entitled Successful Black Man, based off the series of memes, has recently reached over 25,000 followers. This Twitter account and meme series uses a picture of an African American male dressed in a suit and writes statements that can be taken as racial stereotypes for African American males and turns them into statements that hold no racial connotations. Here is an example of the types of tweets that Successful Black Man sends out (Twitter):
The entire point of this type of tweet is for its readers to assign a racial stereotype to it. The way that this is achieved is by having a picture of an African American man and a “…” in between the racial part of the comment and the rest of the comment. As a person who has grown up in a world where stereotypes are continuously assigned to almost every group of people it is very easy for me to fall into the trap and take these statements for only their racial implications.
What kind of questions do the Successful Black Man twitter account and memes like it (Quick Meme) answer about our society? Is the Internet really colorblind? What does this tell us about the Digital Divide today? And finally how are successful black men portrayed online? In the next 700 words or so I hope to answer these questions.
We all remember MCI’s commercial in 1997 about how there is no race on the Internet.
According to MCI and many like them, the Internet was a place a racial ambiguity where it didn’t matter your race all that mattered was who you were as a person.
It is pretty obvious today that that ideal utopia on the Internet did not come to fruition. In fact the Internet in some places is completely the opposite. All over the web you can find sites that are dedicated to white supremacy and defaming African American figures that have made a significant impact in American society (Daniels).
This twitter page that we are looking so closely at especially tries to discredit the possible success that a black man can achieve in his life. Although this Twitter account seems funny and lighthearted, it actually solidifies the stereotypes that we have learned throughout our lives and will now most likely pass on to the next generation. This trend and racism will continue to thrive in America until we stop subscribing to these sites and following accounts like Successful Black Man.
From Barbara Monroe’s book we learn a lot about what the Digital Divide is and how it remains to stay as wide as ever. This divide refers to the gap in technological access between two groups of people mainly minorities and Caucasians (Monroe). What do twitter accounts like these tell us about the digital divide?
In her book, Monroe does a study on Internet access based on race. For the study she takes University of Michigan writing tutors and pairs them up with students from a Detroit high school to essentially be email pen pals. What she learned from doing the study is that Internet access for poor African American students living in central Detroit is very hard to come by. The only access the students had was a poor connection at their high school as opposed to their University of Michigan tutor counterparts who had access in their own dorm rooms whenever they wished.
Her study also looked at the writing skills of the Detroit students who had very limited Internet access. These students lacked great amounts of rhetoric skills and most students typed how they talked. From this we are to conclude that Internet access helps a person develop in their education.
From the account Successful Black Man the comments being made suggest at first that the black man is unintelligent, is a gangster, and is addicted to drugs. The majority of the tweets sent out contain drug references, references to low level jobs or no employment, and talk of being violent. Many parallels can be made between these tweets and the topics the Detroit students chose to talk about. In their emails, the Detroit high school students wrote about rolling joints and committing crimes (Monroe). Because of these parallels we can assume that the Digital Divide remains just as wide as ever.
How do twitter accounts and memes like these affect the image of successful black men in our society? There have been many successful black men that have live in our society today. Men from the likes of Colin Powell to Jay-Z contribute have had vast achievements in politics, music, business, entertainment, etc. Although these men have contributed countlessly to our society and way of life, accounts such as Successful Black Man make attempts to discredit the work of these men.
When I read through the tweets of Successful Black Man I immediately assign the racial stereotypes that pop into my head to what has been written which is the purpose of the account. I almost forget what the entire sentence says as a whole. Take this tweet for example.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p>I got high …paying job offers after graduating from Harvard.</p>— Successful Black Man (@BrotherMadeIt) <a href=”https://twitter.com/BrotherMadeIt/statuses/439404438676324352″>February 28, 2014</a></blockquote>
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From what we read here this Successful Black Man received high paying job offers after graduating from Harvard. Not only is it a huge success to receive multiple job offers, but also multiple high paying job offers is huge especially in today’s economy. Along with that he also graduated from Harvard, one of the best universities in the world. Despite all these accomplishments, the one thing that you take away from this tweet is that he “got high…”
There are many humorous accounts out there on the web that look to poke fun at a group of people. On the surface this seems lighthearted and in all good fun, but in all reality accounts such as these are hindering any progress away from eliminating racism. Making these racially stereotypical jokes reinforces the racial stereotypes in our mind and teaches them to the next generation. If we do not humor these sites and accounts they will eventually die out and our society can once again start making steps to become completely nonracist.
Everett, Anna, and Jessie Daniels. Learning Race and Ethnicity: Youth and Digital Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2008. Print.
“MCI TV Ad 1997.” YouTube. YouTube, 12 Oct. 2010. Web. 05 Mar. 2014.
Monroe, Barbara Jean. Crossing the Digital Divide: Race, Writing, and Technology in the Classroom. New York: Teachers College, 2004. Print.
“Quickmeme: All Your Memes, Gifs & Funny Pics in One Place.” Quickmeme. Web. 05 Mar. 2014.
“Successful Black Man.” BrotherMadeIt. Twitter, 24 Feb. 2014. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.