More than a half-century after the last publication of the The Negro Motorist Green Book, a modern-day version is flourishing in the online community of Black Twitter, finds new CU Boulder research.
“The Green Book was designed to help Black people navigate a racist society, and unfortunately we still exist in a racist society,” said Shamika Klassen (PhDInfoSci’24), a PhD candidate in the College of Media, Communication and Information. “Black Twitter provides a powerful space in which Black people can share tips and experiences about navigating it.”
Published from 1936 to 1966, the Green Book provided guidance on how to resist discrimination everywhere from hotels to state parks. Black Twitter is not a separate platform, but rather, as Klassen described, it is an “open secret waiting in plain sight for those who know how to find it.” Users connect via hashtags related to shared Black experiences, like #BlackLivesMatter, #DrivingWhileBlack and #COVIDWhileBlack.
For a recent study, Klassen collected more than 75,000 tweets and conducted 18 in-depth interviews with Black Twitter users.
She found that users rely on it much like they did the Green Book — to seek out recommendations, call out racist businesses and plug into political activism. But they also complained of “outsiders”posting racist comments, police hovering to gather information, discriminatory moderation and “culture vultures” who appropriated tweets without giving credit.
As someone who studies how social justice intersects with technology, Klassen sees online communities like Black Twitter as vital resources for underrepresented communities. And, she noted, these communities are often underrepresented in the tech world. She hopes her research will inspire companies to work harder to support and protect such spaces, with guidance from people who need and use them.
Photo courtesy Sara Hertwig Photography (Shamika)