After a Florida jury failed to find Michael Dunn guilty in the shooting death of a 17-year-old Jordan Davis, black Twitter responded with its usual biting wit and #DangerousBlackKids was born.
Writer Jamie Nesbitt Golden kicked the hashtag off with a picture of her adorable son and the caption, “Here’s [a] potential future threat to society walking into the living room.” Her goal was simple: to push back against the common misperception of black youths, images of “thugs” and criminals that, perhaps, led Dunn to perceive an unarmed Davis as a threat.
“The world needs to know that black kids are like any other kids, and not a problem to be solved,” Nesbitt Golden told NewsOne. “I know some folks feel like it played into respectability politics, but the hashtag was a tongue-in-cheek response to black kids being perceived as criminals for doing the most ordinary things.”
Nesbitt Golden says that the case of Jordan Davis, and that of Trayvon Martin, contributes to the fears of many black Americans – particularly black parents – regarding a society that often greets black youth with hostility and violence.
“Sharing was our way of commiserating, of mourning a life taken too soon. I think it’s important to remember community in these instances, when the burdens of institutional racism become a bit too much to bear,” she added.
Within minutes of Golden’s tweet, #DangerousBlackKids was trending with photos of black children along with facetious comments drawing attention to the absurdity of how those kids are all too often misinterpreted. Since Nesbitt Golden’s first tweet, the hashtag garnered nearly 31,000 tweets, according to Twitter analytic tool Topsy.
One account, @theObamaDiary, tweeted childhood photos of the President and First Lady along with the caption, “Some #DangerousBlackKids grow up to help Americans get health insurance & inspire a whole generation. Terrifying.” Scholar Zaheer Ali made the point, “Because when people’s humanity is denied they are seen only as #DangerousBlackKids” and Buzzfeed writer Heaven Nigatu added, “omg this #DangerousBlackKids hashtag <3 So beautiful and so painful.”
One Twitter user that helped blow the hashtag up was Mikki Kendall. Another writer, with more than 18,000 followers, Kendall used the moment to offer up darling photos of her two boys to challenge the narrative of dangerous black youths.
— Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) February 16, 2014
Kendall told NewsOne that with the both the Davis and Martin cases it became clear that young black people were being framed as criminals by default and that was something she wanted to address.
“The world needs to see that they are always human and that no one has a right to take their life,” she said. “[The hashtag] was a way to push back against the prevailing narratives, and show off our babies to each other. I know the tag has been criticized by people who didn’t appreciate the dark humor it involved. But sometimes you laugh so you don’t start crying.”