(from the inbox)
Subject: Friday night
The “booty gods” have conspired against me once again, the [redacted description] just canceled our rendevouz for manana [ed. note: love the tri-lingual email!] *As a solemn tear rolls down my cheek*. So maybe we can get a “guys night out” popping for tomorrow?
Subject: Re. Friday Night
oh, that’s killer. you should prick your penis (be careful!) and put one drop of blood in a condom, then bury it near a tree somewhere. In three fortnights return to the tree and there will be a girl there ready to give you some booty.
The dynamics of “blacklash” are nuanced and sensitive enough to require a dedicated post sometime in the future. I was originally going to discuss it here, right now (f it, we’ll do it live!). But my full-on responses to the original questions about whether there’s a racial divide on twitter were TL;DR enough that I’ll just save the subject for later.
For now, I’ve paraphrased the original questions to protect the journalist. and I hope my notes add some more color and context to the conversation, but also help w/r/t transparency in how these these pieces are written.
this was all one email response to a handful of questions:
First, I should say that I’m not on Twitter at the moment. I imagine myself as part of an across-the-board trend of “normals” going to Twitter more for information and updates. both casually and for dedicated research. so personally, i have been scouting more per the book and new writer gig. but generally, especially in the circles i sometimes hang in, I’m light on info w/r/t the mechanics of Twitter and hashtag memes that become trending topics. how the broader algorithms work. There was the high profile slate article on black people and twitter last summer, and I’d probably just abide by that reporting for the science of trending topics angle. but on the cultural dna front…
here are my answers to your questions. I erred on the side of the conversation, but feel free to whittle down and take whatever letter or punctuation mark works for you.
1. Notes on what i make of the trend: I don’t think there’s much more of a reveal than young black people making jokes, at the heart of it. there’s a cultural conditioning at play, yes, the same way a tumblr meme, or a loosey-goosey comment thread on a site like The Awl has definite white cultural fingerprints. I think on the internet this is illustrated best by exclamation points usage (my post linked). more recently, a tumblr writer I enjoy, tyler coates, wrote this post complaining about an article on the new Jane site. and in the big ocean of internet content, it’s innocuous. but up-close you can deconstruct it for the currency that works on tumblr. there’s the voice, and the usage of caps, and the “I. Can’t.” formulation, all very “white culture” to my reading. not to say it doesn’t translate — which will lead to question #2, is it funny — but the beauty of language, and the bubble-busting of Trending Topics allows us to more easily see the infinite array of choices in how we talk, couch ideas, etc. borges said something like “to speak is to fall into tautology” mcluhan probably said something relevant too, heh…so i guess what i make of it, as someone who branded/bylined as The Assimilated Negro, is that I’m fascinated and amazed that more often the cultural trend pieces highlight the cultural differences over the human similarities. to me it’s much more of a cultural conditioning matrix at play, another somewhat related blog of mine, on black people boob video vs. white people boob video stabs at that. and so the hashtag meme joke that pokes fun at the new jane pratt magazine doesn’t exist as an issue of cultural interest and priority (more white internet users will know jane mag and sassy), but even if per wikipedia information age, everyone knows the same stuff, then the joke formulation would still look different. #janesnothittingitright, #uknowurwhitegirlfriendhastogowhen …are off the cuff riffs.
2. notes on whether it’s funny: this is the beauty of comedy. a good joke can walk through territory riddled with cultural landmines, engulfed in racial flamewars, and the laugh creates an insulated oasis. jokes are like hurt lockers. so for me, like anything else, it’s hit or miss. per the coates tumblr. “I. Can’t.” makes me laugh. but i know some of that is the assimilation talking.
This discussion started because I shared some of my responses to a journalist inquiring about Black people and twitter usage. In my response I included an old post of mine on how white bloggers use exclamation points on the internet. So that’s the starting point.
30-something, Black, Male says…
Didn’t know you had that post on exclamation points (I am fully down with a reduction in the use of exclamation points)… Am I the only person that get’s exclamation point guilt and angst about whether I can get away with not using them when I want to show appreciation? I’ve have been wringing my hands lately over this business. I hate when I write a reply or need to say thanks for something and have to stop and lose a full minute or two to thinking about whether I can get away with not including an exclamation after my salutation of Thanks. I kind of want to tell people in the office that I’m going to cut back and that they shouldn’t take it personally or as unenthusiastic if I write “Great, I really appreciate your help” One of my team members emailed me on Monday and asked me if I’d have a few minutes to discuss a project and when I told her that I actually would be in the office later because we were released from jury duty (sick juror) she replied “Awesome!!!”. I came really close to replying and saying that I thought the 3 exclamation points was excessive. It was though, what could be that awesome about me coming into the office. If I backflipped from the entrance to my desk it might warrant that but that’s not the case, it’s just a dream of mine.
What do you think about pigeons?
I’m very suspicious of them. I mean, what are they here for really?
They run in packs, but like to project an air of independence. They have absolutely no sense of discrimination about where they eat, shit, and piss. There’s no manners, always begging for food and whatnot. It’s like they’re permanent bird-teenagers.
But I have a theory on pigeons. I think they’re roving spy-cameras for the government.
This is not a passing notion here. I’ve had this thought for years. My body is now conditioned to physically respond to pigeons as if they’re roving spy-cameras for the government. When they’re around I behave as if someone’s watching me.
Here’s an example:
1. THINK about what this is like for the caterpillar!
2. kindly help the caterpillar onto a card, or paper towel, or other means of caterpillar transport.
3. transport it someplace where it has a chance, outside
4. say goodbye!
[insert emotionally-resonant photo of released caterpillar here]