Saturday, November 29, 2014

Twitter: On the Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

Emma Pierson did an interesting analysis (FAQ) of Twitter reactions to the Ferguson grand jury announcement and found "that there was a 'red group' and a 'blue group' who rarely talked to each other, thought very different things, came from very different backgrounds, and often were uncivil even when they did talk."

To help illustrate what both "sides" are talking about, I removed the word "Ferguson" from Pierson's list of most common retweets and generated a tag cloud for each group.

The "Red Group"
The "Blue Group"

Pierson notes: "The red group talks about mob justice and race baiting; the blue group talks about breaking the system. The red group blames Obama for exacerbating tensions and forcing the Missouri governor into declaring a state of emergency; the blue group says the state of emergency must not be used to violate human rights."

Seems consistent with recent polling data that shows a continued racial divide in our views of justice. Even Rand Paul gets it. But unfortunately this larger context is too often missing from our discussion. On Facebook my white friends are the ones talking about it, and they are talking about the autopsies, the conflicting eyewitness testimonies, the robbery, the riots, the new police weaponry, and everything else except the elephant that is still in the room.

After the Grand Jury decision was announced, Cory Booker posted a link to a piece he wrote for the Stanford Daily shortly after the Rodney King verdict - and this MLK quote:

And here's some whitesplaining from Sally Kohn - for the red, white, and blue groups:
"Black communities are ultimately protesting systems of injustice and inequality that structurally help white people while systematically harming black people. Just because you’re white and therefore generally benefit from those systems doesn’t mean you inherently support those systems — or need to defend them. Benefiting from white privilege is automatic. Defending white privilege is a choice.' 

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