NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, November 11, 2015, 5:15 PM
I love Twitter.
I was one of the first million people to join it over eight years ago back in February of 2007. Back then, the Twitter community was primarily made up of tech nerds. I fancied myself as one of them.
Our early conversations were not always incredibly interesting, but what they were, was overwhelming positive. From time to time, people from different political persuasions pleasantly disagreed with one other, gently cracked jokes on or with one another, but it mainly consisted of strangers telling other strangers what was going on in their world.
Almost all of us used our real names, with our real photos as our profile pictures, and it didn’t even occur to me that the community would one day become something so drastically different than it was eight years ago.
Today, while I admit that my life has changed a lot, Twitter has changed even more. I almost need to pray before I use it. On an average day, hundreds of people send hateful messages to me or about me in one way or another. A friend of mine recently searched my name and said she had to fight back the tears looking at just how ugly it was. I’ve blocked over 20,000 people this past year alone, but it’s gotten to where I hardly even check my @ replies nowadays. It’s just too ugly.
In the past week alone, I have had over a dozen women and men who spoke out on racism at the University of Missouri write me devastated messages to tell me how appalled they are by the racist and sexist ugliness that came their way as a result.
In the past week alone, I have had over a dozen women and men who spoke out on racism at the University of Missouri write me devastated messages to tell me how appalled they are by the racist and sexist ugliness that came their way as a result. One young leader canceled her Twitter account altogether because the racist hate and insults were simply not worth it for her. My wife and many of my family members stopped using the service for the very same reason.
Racists now posts message on every single hashtag of interest to black folk. Almost always without their real names or faces, racists will use racial slurs in messages to or about people thousands of times per day on Twitter. It’s so prevalent, so pervasive, that it’s basically impossible to use the service as a person of color and not have to face it down every single day.
Twitter still allows racist harassment to take place in a volume that almost no other respectable service has. It’s almost unbearable.
I get free speech, but people should be able to use a service they love without being perpetually accosted by racists. For me, Twitter is the only service in my life where a racist encounter is guaranteed. If every time I went to the local grocery store I was 100% sure that I would meet an overt racist head on, I’d never visit that grocery store again and would hope that the store would do something to make sure it never happened again.
If every time I pumped gas, a stranger was waiting right there at the pump to call my family and I a horrific name, I’d find somewhere else to go … forever.
In spite of all of its advances, though, Twitter still allows racist harassment to take place in a volume that almost no other respectable service has. It’s almost unbearable.