Twitter 140 conference 3 – Kyra Gaunt on Twitter, racism and difficult conversations

As part of a line-up that dealt with the social impact of Twitter as much as the techie or business side of it, 140 got PhD student Kyra Gaunt onstage. The black anthropologist was the first woman to speak and talked about why Twitter lets us have conversations about difficult topics – like racism – that we can’t have in real life:

10.50 Wants to discuss the way twitter can be used to transform conversations about race and racism.

10.51 You know when you get offended in a conversation? you often fall silent or avoid confrontation: Twitter offers
a new way to talk about difficult issues.

[Interrupted by Computer problem – “it’s doing this because i’m black”]
[Power point resumes]

Shows an upside down map – our particular attitude to race like the attitude to where the north is.

Race is more complex than skin colour… A powerful way of talking about difference.
Race is a sticky conversation for human beings.

10.53 Hard to change something that isn’t really there but easier to have a conversation.

[her twitter: @kyraocity]

10.54 In workshops she asked pple for their earliest memories of racial difference – the example she gives is of a 20 year old Jewish man travelling in Utah, a young girl asked him if he had been church, whether he believed in Jesus and then whether he had horns.
He joked to deal with it – replying “only at night”. In real life don’t have straight conversations about topics like race.
On Twitter we can have those conversations.

10.56 Recent Hashtag #thatsafrican trended. Tweets like #thatsafrican when your teacher can’t pronounce your last name.
There was a debate in the thread about whether it was racist or not. She thinks it was racial but not racist.

By 9pm there was a Huffington Post article: When Twitter went Racist? And by 9.30pm the trending topic was removed from Twitter.
The wrong choice by Twitter authorities because we need to have these conversations.

10.59 If there hadn’t been racism, there wouldn’t have been courage.

Shiny Verdict: interesting.

Anna Leach

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