“@POTUS get cancer (N-word).”
On Monday, a mere 10 minutes after President Barack Obama launched his own Twitter account, from which he’ll directly tweet, he was greeted with his first racist swipe. It would not be the last, as a barrage of tweets that could be considered racist followed.
The most notable word of course, starts with an N.
But there were also gay slurs.
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Distorted images of his iconic HOPE poster, with a noose around his neck, re-titled ROPE.
This week also saw the vandalizing of Google Maps as it pertains to Obama’s residence.
On the social mapping system, if someone searches using variations of the “N-word,” along with “house,” a map would point you to the White House.
The phrase “N-word king” also directs you to the White House.
As of Wednesday afternoon, it could still be seen, although Google has acknowledged the hack and apologized to the White House.
“What is interesting about social media, which comes up over and over again, is this idea that it could be Utopian,” said Khadijah White, a journalism professor at Rutgers University. “The belief that it would democratize public space and public dialogue.”
White, who writes about race, media and political rhetoric, said while social media has served that function, it has also been a space where people who have felt marginalized are granted a platform to perform under the cover of a clever avatar.
“So what we have seen are the trolls we have seen for years migrate to Twitter,” White said. “This kind of stuff is never surprising. This has been a recurring story (with Obama) for years now. And historically, we know the function of that word is to put black people in their place and remind them of their perceived inferiority.”
Only five hours after Obama joined Twitter, he had broken a record as the fastest account to get 1 million followers. As of Wednesday afternoon, that number had reached 2.3 million. He has only tweeted four times, but his first one has been retweeted 280,000 times and favorited 390,000 times.
One of those was Chonie Sharper, a financial strategist in Kennesaw.
But while scrolling through her timeline, she not only saw thousands of people welcome Obama, she also saw posts like:
“@AlvanianDevil: @POTUS Go (expletive) Yourself (N-word), You Ruin The Country And Sit Back In Your Chair And Laugh, Dont Worry Couple Of Months You Will Be Dead :)
“@SynRages: @POTUS Hi (N-word). Just wanted to let you know I can’t wait for the new election and get you off the throne.
“@GruntVet2012: @POTUS SO WILL THE PERSON THAT CALLED YOU A (N-word) BE CHARGED WITH A HATE CRIME, LIKE WHEN GAYS ARE CALLED (slur)?
She said she was not surprised by the onslaught of hate directed at the president, calling it “nothing new.”
“My initial thought, growing up with a grandmother who made me familiar with her struggles with racism and colorism, was that I wasn’t really shocked,” Sharper said. “People believe that Twitter is sensationalizing this, but I think this is just how people really feel. Twitter just gives them a way to hide behind anonymity.”
That Obama is being attacked is not new. His Twitter account has simply provided a new platform for a fresh and intense round of hatred. White said particular spikes happened after both the 2008 and 2012 elections.
But during his six years in office, largely because of his race, he and his wife, Michelle Obama, have faced a torrent of slights, both direct and indirect.
A newscaster was recently fired for saying the first lady looked like a character from “Planet of the Apes.” Rudy Giuliani proclaimed Obama didn’t love America, spurring a 12-year-old black Georgia kid to go viral in his agreement.
On a larger level, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington to address Congress about Iran while critical negotiations about that country’s nuclear program were still going on.
And then there was Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who in 2009 shouted “You lie!” to the president in the middle of Obama’s State of the Union Address.
One consolation in all of this is that every tweet directed to @Potus is being archived. And the Secret Service has been aggressive in targeting people who have made threats against Obama through mail, social media and even telephone.
Sharper, though, is not convinced.
“The Secret Service can’t even guard the gates around the White House,” she said.