C. Brandon Ogbunu: "Why We Need Black Twitter"

C. Brandon Ogbunu: "Why We Need Black Twitter"

The Atlantic

Black Twitter_The Atlantic

Image source: The Atlantic

Why We Need Black Twitter

The Atlantic, 12 November 2022

By C. Brandon Ogbunu, 2022-23 MIT MLK Visiting Assistant Professor, for The Atlantic


Jokes are rich notions. The Black comedic and satirical traditions have for decades fascinated scholars and comedians, many of whom have converged on the idea that trauma is a defining feature of Black comedy. W. E. B Du Bois wrote in The Humor of Negroes that humor is partly “a defense mechanism; reaction from tragedy; oppositions set out in the face of hurt and insult.”

Much of today’s Black humor is driven by Black Twitter, a community that is nebulous in construction but focused in execution. Humor is one of its chief weapons, and it lives even in sad moments.

Elon Musk’s recent purchase of Twitter has fostered anxiety among some users about the future of Black Twitter. Rumored changes to the platform—touted as the promotion of free speech—have led many to speculate that bigoted behavior will flourish with fewer consequences, threatening the comfort of marginalized groups on Twitter. This, coupled with the firing of Twitter staff working on ethical AI, which focused on developing more transparent algorithms, have left some wondering whether Black Twitter’s days are numbered.

I’m not a comedian, or even that good at Twitter. I’m a computational scientist...