Some Americans are racist. We know this, though there's nothing quite like a black guy winning a national election to bring them out of the woodwork. The sheer volume of racist Tweets is disheartening, but can we learn anything from them?
Because this stuff is now nationally broadcast rather than confined to poorly Xeroxed newsletters, there's data waiting to be mined. Floating Sheep, a group of technologically minded geographers, has attempted to determine just where the racism is coming from. First, on the day after the Election, they searched for Tweets containing "monkey" or "nigger," and "Obama" or "reelected" or "won," and isolated the ones that were geotagged with a location. Then they created a formula to determine how high the state-level proportion of hate Tweets to regular Tweets was compared to the national level. The result: the above map. The greener the state, the bigger its share of racist Tweets.
Sorry, Southern states. Once again, objective data throws shade your way.
Now, the data may be objective, but the inferences are not. Floating Sheep acknowledges two limitations of their data: It shows where a Tweet was sent from, not where the Twitter user is from, and it counts Tweets rather than Twitter users. An obvious third issue is that we don't necessarily know the context of the keywords searched. So let's throw out four possible interpretations, from most to least charitable.
• A single racist long-haul truck driver drove a circuitous route through the South on Wednesday, firing off Tweets as he went. He then flew to Minnesota and Oregon to continue calling the president a monkey. (Seriously, Minnesota, Oregon, I'm very disappointed in you.)
• Southern states have the highest proportion of African-Americans in the country. A good number of the Tweets containing the keywords came from them, and were sent in solidarity rather than with racist intentions.
• The South had a higher proportion of Romney supporters than the rest of the country. It's only naturally that more people in those states would have been disappointed with the results of the election. So even if there were more racist Tweets, it's because there was a bigger pool of disgruntled voters to begin with, not that they are more racist than anywhere else.
• The South has more racists per capita.
Choose your own explanation! Each one is super-depressing. And again: Minnesota, Oregon, what the hell, guys?