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Lee: What's tweeting going to do?

BY ASHLEY LEE | DECEMBER 20, 2013 5:00 AM

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Twitter is a live platform that allows those of us in the margins to be heard — not to fulfill some egotistical desire but to express ourselves on relevant issues in our lives.

Our 140-character thoughts may not enact public policy or properly establish a city-wide program, but they allow us to cleverly perfect and deliver a critical and concise argument that can be easily digested in a moment or two as a person skims through their timeline.

When talking about social activism, a friend asked, “What’s tweeting going to do?”

The physical act of tweeting may not necessarily be a Pulitzer-Prize-worthy move, but it’s certainly a way to effectively communicate and connect with people in a society in which we are already checking dashboards, news feeds, and timelines several times a day.

It doesn’t matter if followers walk away from tweets annoyed, ambivalent, or wanting to commit to social activism. What matters is that, even for a brief moment in their busy lives, people can at least consider an idea, event, or explanation and perhaps apply it to their own lives. You have to meet people where they are; and quite frankly, many of us are found online.

This summer, I saw #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen take Twitter by storm and advance black feminism. Earlier this month, a columnist for Ebony magazine, @FeministaJones, created the hashtag #RacismEndedWhen to make fun of the GOP’s mistake in a tweet claiming Rosa Parks helped end racism.

Last Sunday, #NotYourAsianSidekick had worldwide success. This trending topic was started by writer, graduate student, and social activist Suey Park (@suey_park), who clearly had her mind made up when she sparked this online movement. She wants users to know Asians will not be a prop for people to use to diffuse discussions of the difficulties facing minorities in America.

What was first meant to discuss Asian-American feminism turned into a topic that explored the Asian-American identity alongside white feminism, patriarchy, LGBTQ rights, and homophobia, the Model Minority myth in relation to anti-black racism, white allies, body image, stereotypes, and cultural appropriation.

It’s about time.

Often, Asian-American voices are excluded from these topics. Miss Park spoke to this when she tweeted, “Nobody will GIVE us a space. We need to MAKE a space to use our voices, build community, and be heard.”

She is unapologetically candid when sharing her beliefs. Her opinions stem from her experiences living in U.S. social systems that continue to perpetuate Asian stereotypes. We saw this recently with Katy Perry’s American Music Awards performance as she embodied the submissive, Geisha girl stereotype.

Plenty of users showed solidarity with Miss Park and her views. A tweet read,

“#NotYourAsianSidekick because I’m tired of the patriarchy in Asian American spaces and sick of the racism in white feminism.”

Others saw the topic as a personal attack against white people. But the purpose of Park’s trending topic was to give white Americans an opportunity to carefully listen to a racial identity that is frequently ignored in social discourse.

Asian-Americans need a space to express themselves and for non-Asians to listen without interrupting. It’s time we stop marginalizing Asian-American voices in pertinent discussions that overwhelmingly rely on black and white identities.

Twitter is just the beginning.


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