Earlier this month, he vilified NASCAR’s lone Black driver, Bubba Wallace, and called Black Lives Matter a “symbol of hate.” This comes at a time when racists are threatening peaceful protesters with guns and a noose was found in Wallace’s assigned garage.
Trump uses Twitter to embolden violent racism. The company has said that Trump gets a pass because he’s a world leader. But his powerful position is exactly why he should be scrutinized.
For more than 400 years, those in power at every level of U.S. society have treated Black folks and other people of color as less than human. White folks who benefit from this racial hierarchy are feeling their grip on power slip away, and some are willing to violently resist.
Trump is putting people in danger
One recent big power-shift came when Bubba Wallace was the catalyst for a NASCAR decision to ban Confederate flags. Weeks later, a noose was found hanging in his designated garage. And though an investigation showed the noose had been there for at least a year, the fact remains that out of 1,700 NASCAR garages, the one designated for Wallace was the only one with a noose.
Ultimately, NASCAR can’t just flip a switch and make its 70-year embrace of white supremacy disappear. That noose is part and parcel of the league’s history — and the broader history of racism in this country.
In yet another attempt to exploit seething racial hatred and fear, Trump tweeted that Wallace should be forced to “apologize” for the noose “hoax”.
But this isn’t a game.
Real lives are at stake. Bubba Wallace walks into a hostile environment every day. Not just at NASCAR — but anywhere he exists as a Black person.
We know this because we saw what happened to George Floyd, and we know what happened to Breonna Taylor. Innocent unarmed people and protesters are being killed to protect the status quo of white control.
And the president is using Twitter to let us all know that he’s invested in white control, too.
‘Black Lives Matter’ isn’t just a slogan
For years Trump has spewed hateful tweets aimed at stirring up violent anti-Blackness. He’s repeatedly used Twitter to rebuke Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players for peacefully protesting against police brutality, mischaracterizing their demonstrations as disrespect for the American flag. He posted dangerous lies about Rep. Ilhan Omar. And the list goes on.
If Twitter truly believes that Black lives matter, as it proclaimed on billboards across the country this summer, then it’s time to stop the virtue signaling and take real action. Not just for these famous folks, but for all the Black people who attempt to survive and thrive in society.
The hate that Trump stirs up is the reality that greets Black people every day as we attempt to live, work and play. It’s microaggressions at the water cooler. It’s the excuse for discriminatory practices and behaviors. And ultimately it’s the barrel of the gun we might end up staring down as we attempt to march or rally for our lives.
Twitter isn’t the only Silicon Valley company that needs to address Trump’s anti-democratic hate-spewing. But those other platforms aren’t the favorite hangout of journalists and media-makers. On Twitter, Trump’s words have a unique power to shape the media cycle and eventually broadcast into millions of homes on the evening news. And that’s a big part of how he normalizes violence and hate.
Trump’s agenda is reckless, racist and wrong. And as long he’s allowed to use tweets to shape the media and cultural conversation, Twitter’s agenda is, too.
Big Tech must divest from hate
We know that Big Tech companies like Twitter and Facebook have built a business model that amplifies hate, extremism and propaganda for profit. Polarizing, hateful content garners the most clicks, and that in turn rakes in advertising revenue.
But corporate profits aren’t worth people’s lives.
Now is the time for Silicon Valley companies to honor their statements of solidarity with Black Lives Matter — and their responsibility to protect platform users. That starts by acting within their rights as private companies to crack down on Trump’s speech.
Though it may take time, we know that the Movement for Black Lives will prevail. But we also know that there are plenty of people out there willing to kill their own neighbors to keep that from happening. We’ve already seen violent people admit they took inspiration from Trump, and it’s only a matter of time before something horrific happens again as a result of the president’s incendiary speech.
Twitter has the power to help prevent this. And we have the power to win.