The first part of this article explains the gist of the recent #CancelColbert hashtag that trended on Twitter in response to the show’s racism-cloaked-as-satire tweet, thanks to online media champion and activist organizer Suey Park.
Months ago, Park started the #NotYourAsianSidekick hashtag, which trended and led to a huge social media following and a growing online activist coalition, of sorts.
Following Park’s work for a few months has changed the way I thought about online activism.
I now see that comparing it with other types of activism is becoming irrelevant. Online social media activism can be a powerful force to be reckoned with, standing completely on its own. Online work shapes conversations and awareness, and changing the conversation is an influential political act.
I’ve watched Park’s work and the work of those who have supported her become incredibly successful at bringing people to the table to talk about issues they may not have felt they could talk about otherwise.
My favorite statement about the unique role unconventional media platforms play in engagement came from the always on-point site Black Girl Dangerous. BGD creator Mia McKenzie’s site tweeted:
@WritersofColour …stepping-stone to the mainstream, but as an investment in the margins. 2/2
— Reasonable White Man (@BlackGirlDanger) March 29, 2014
Black Girl Dangerous offers a poignant reframing of media makers who work outside of mainstream platforms, which includes Park and the hashtag activism work she’s done. People who publish without connection to mainstream media are so often talked and thought about as “fringe commentators” or as people who don’t have a more heavily funded platform and, therefore, have to publish unconventionally.
Because of the work of Suey Park, Black Girl Dangerous, and so many other online activists, I’m seeing the less “mainstream” work of people who self-publish and utilize social media as reaching and empowering the audiences whose voices need to be heard most vitally.
Twitter activists are engaging people directly, stepping around the barriers to reaching audiences that mainstream media outlets inherently have and lessening the distinction between those who publish and those who receive information. It’s more than an alternative; it’s a powerful platform all its own when intelligent, hard-working people use it strategically.
And let’s be real: the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and tons of other major outlets have been publishing articles about Park’s activism. New media methods are reaching mainstream audiences. We should all be paying attention.