I don't think this is what Slate.com had in mind when they wrote their story about people who use Twitter who also happen to be black. But we, in Blackland, took an annoying slight from an article that seemed hopelessly lame and turned it into #BrownTwitterBird Christmas. It's all Alicia at InnyVinny.com's fault, as she was the one who took the original bird, illustrated by Alex Eben Meyer for Slate, and turned something cute but slightly offensive into a glorious, multifaceted display of the many diverse aspects of things you use in Dozens jokes.
What was the result?
Eben Meyer was both excited about being an internet meme and a good sport about some folks thinking his bird was mad racist. (Or not racist enough, if you ask me. I'm still waiting on an illustration of brown rooster Cockafella Dynasty Sign.) Someone apparently wrote Eben Meyer (either for serious or in jest) that they were going to call Jesse Jackson on his arse.
i was pretty entertained, and not sure whether the person who sent the email (anonymously for the most part) was actually offended, sarcastic, or just being an ass. starting out, i figured this article and illustration would probably drum up some conversation, both positive and negative, and while this illustration isn’t going to win any awards for concept, is it offensive? do you, dear reader, find it racist?
Good sport that guy. And a good illustrator. Your bird is still kinda insensitive. But it's a weak strand of insensetive that most people won't get too upset about. The real foul here was always the article that made it seem like black teenagers were using Twitter in some foreign way that was different from Justin Bieber fanatics or whoever made #hornyforjustin (God, I hope Timberlake ... nope, just more Bieber) a trending topic on Twitter yesterday.
Alicia at InnyVinny.com, aka Instant Vintage, was the one who took Eben Meyer's illustration and, in my opinion, perfected it, answering all the questions I posed in my original post about Slate's illustration choice.
I’ve taken the graphic used for the article, a brown bird holding a blackberry and wearing a fitted baseball cap, and altered it a few times over. I figure that if Slate and the world are really that intrigued (and because Twitter can’t provide empirical data on who is who), those individuals who want to be identified as a black person using Twitter should be able to do so with a brown bird wearing a fitted cap in a color that best represents them.
And a meme was BORN! Twitter soon filled with #BrownTwitterBirds, both created by Alicia and some by other users. You can see a lovely collection on Alicia's page. If you missed out on some of the "excitement" of the meme, it's still kind of going on, or you can relive the thrill through my friend, DirtyPrettyThangs blog, that gives a nice blow-by-blow of the #BrownTwitterBird timeline.
Not since Black Bart Simpson have I seen something take on such a wondrous, "look what I found at the swamp meet!" feel to it. It was exhilarating. Naturally though, because us black people are not a monolith, a few people on my timeline were annoyed that folks were cracking #BrownTwitterBird jokes instead of tweeting Farrakhan or some such, but ... you know what? It's Twitter. I think there's both room for the revolution and discussing how you tried to get your #BrownTwitterBird to come to church with you, but he wouldn't take off his fitted cap, so he left you, walking down the street talking about how Jesus is in everything, so he's going to worship at White Castles.
Seriously. Besides, #BrownTwitterBird is TOTALLY a protest meme, I mean, movement. It's almost your duty if you're on Twitter to tweet about the thing. It's your way to stick it to the man. (The man being Slate, in this case. Next week it will be someone else.) That bird means something. Dr. Goddess said so on her blog:
You see, in this list are the loc-wearers, the wig doners, the sports enthusiasts, the hometown reppers, the Afrocentrists, the ghetto fabulous, the afro'ed up, the regal ones and the graduates, the lovers of Prince, Michael, Rick James or even Grace Jones...and the hi top fade. Other than the celebrities, it's clear that not only Slate but the rest of mainstream America has no real idea who Black people are, no real clue about our humanity, in general, so of course they would have no real idea what we're doing on Twitter and how we express our culture. For us, Twitter is an electronic medium that allows enough flexibility for uninhibited and unfabricated creativity while exhibiting more of the strengths of social media that allow us to build community.
See? #BrownTwitterBird is deeeep. You can talk about Haiti and crack jokes. The Twitter abides.
(Oh, and follow me on Twitter at @blacksnob.)