Updated: February 7, 2014 6:14AM
In the digital world, black folks rule.
We are all too familiar with the bad numbers for African Americans. We know the stats showing we suffer from perniciously persistent unemployment, poverty, crime and incarceration rates. Black Americans tip the scale on the prevalence of obesity and other deadly health maladies. For decades, we have been buried in an avalanche of negative trends.
Now, a victorious statistic: African Americans are dominant users of social media sites.
A new study by the Pew Research Center reports that 29 percent of African Americans tweet, compared to 16 percent among whites and Latinos, respectively. And 30 percent of blacks use LinkedIn, compared to the 22 percent of the whites and 13 percent of Latinos who post resumes and connect on the professional networking site.
Chicago is a standout. In the Dec. 30 story, “African Americans Own the Twitter,” the Chicago Sun-Times’ GRID reports that black digital denizens in Chicago are 54 percent more likely to tweet and 53 percent more likely to use LinkedIn than all Chicago adults. That’s according to data GRID obtained from Scarborough, a national consumer analysis firm.
Digital divide, begone!
Researchers did not offer many reasons why, but I gleaned a few theories from digital opinionators. “Peeps like to speak OUT! And to be pithy!” emailed Andrew Patner, my old friend and favorite bloopie (AKA, black groupie).
Jon Evans commented on the GRID site: “I shouldn’t be surprised. We African Americans like to GOSSIP!”
And, we LOVE to put other people’s business in the streets.
Seriously, social media have long been the cutting-edge and natural bailiwick of the young, restless and African American.
The Twitter finesse of Cory Booker helped propel him into the U.S. Senate. Dubbed “Twitter’s favorite mayor,” Booker captured national fame by tweeting his philosophy on governing, advice, news and campaign appeals, dozens of times a day.
Elected mayor of Newark in 2006, Booker adapted Twitter to connect with his constituents in the down-and-out New Jersey city on a myriad of causes, from public safety to healthy eating to charitable acts. He brought hordes along for the ride. His 1.4 million Twitter followers were a key catalyst for his election as New Jersey’s first black senator.
Of course, some African-American youth are deploying digital technology for nefarious deeds, engaging in gang-banging and flash-mobbing in 140 characters or less.
But it’s a hopeful sign that, after decades of suffering on the receiving end of ugly statistics, black folks are out front on a futuristic, lucrative trend.
So, what to do with it? African Americans suffer from a lack of positive, productive public conversations and images in traditional media. Twitter and other digital platforms offer salvation, allowing the ignored and misrepresented to speak in their own voices, on their own terms.
Social media lets the left-outs share their own stories, express their own opinions, in context and real time, instead of through “experts,” “spokesmen” and well-meaning journalists.
Black folks can go to the mountaintop with the most powerful communications technology ever created. Now, we can go tell it.