Why Black Twitter Is 'On Fire' After Queen Elizabeth II's Death

Queen Elizabeth II's death aged 96 has sparked a flood of tributes and fond words for a beloved monarch who reigned for a record-breaking 70 years before passing away on Thursday.

From world leaders to members of the public, the social media landscape has been filled with expressions of sadness in the hours since it was announced that the sovereign had died at Scotland's Balmoral Castle.

However, a number of Black Twitter users have taken the opportunity to mark the Queen's death as something of a moment to celebrate, with a range of memes and explanatory threads filling the timeline.

"Black Twitter is on fire today," read one viral tweet, which showed an image of a man posing seemingly victoriously beside a grave that had been mocked up as the queen's.

Showing similar sentiment, another popular tweet showed the words: "We are sad to announce that the queen has died," alongside a picture of the late Princess Diana laughing, styled to represent Black Twitter's feelings on the news.

The Queen ascended to the throne at a time of change for the British Empire and the subsequent forming of the Commonwealth of Nations. Many people from former colonies consider her a figurehead for the brutality their people suffered under British imperialism.

Queen Elizabeth's death sparks Black Twitter debate
Queen Elizabeth II on June 14, 2014, in London, and (inset) a newspaper vendor arranging a piece of glass over a newspaper depicting the portrait of the late Queen in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 9, 2022. Following the Queen's death, Black twitter users have questioned her legacy. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images;/EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images

The British Empire at the height of its power was described as the "the empire on which the sun never set" and commanded 23 percent of the world's population in 1913. It controlled countries across every continent and today 14 overseas territories remain under British sovereignty.

"Black Twitter is absolutely Black Twittering right now," said The Atlantic contributing writer Jemele Hill, who defended people questioning the queen's legacy.

"Journalists are tasked with putting legacies into full context, so it is entirely appropriate to examine the queen and her role in the devastating impact of continued colonialism," wrote Hill.

To illustrate her point, Hill shared a link to an op-ed for The New York Times, in which Harvard professor Maya Jasanoff wrote in a guest essay: "We should not romanticize her era. The queen helped obscure a bloody history of decolonization whose proportions and legacies have yet to be adequately acknowledged."

"This is what I mean by considering the full history of the Queen," said Hill in a quote tweet. "It's ok to pose questions and think about the fullness of legacies."

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, an associate professor at the University of Michigan's School of Education, spoke out against a pushback toward those who were questioning Queen Elizabeth's II's legacy.

"Telling the colonized how they should feel about their colonizer's health and wellness is like telling my people that we ought to worship the Confederacy," she tweeted. "'Respect the dead' when we're all writing these Tweets *in English.* How'd that happen, hm? We just chose this language?"

Eugene Scott, a national political reporter at The Washington Post, chose to address those who criticized the timing of those speaking out.

"Real question for the 'now is not the appropriate time to talk about the negative impact of colonialism' crowd: When is the appropriate time to talk about the negative impact of colonialism?" Scott asked.

In June, Prince Charles, now King Charles III, gave an opening address at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Rwanda, during which he called on member states to "acknowledge the wrongs that have shaped our past" and said the "time has come" for conversations about historic slavery.

Some of the younger royals, including Princes William and Harry, have also attempted to address Britain's role in the violence and subjugation of the people in its colonies.

William said the "appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history," during a royal Caribbean tour with his wife, Kate Middleton, this year.

He spoke hours after Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness told him of the country's ambition to remove the queen as head of state.

Queen Elizabeth II in Jamaica
Queen Elizabeth II is pictured on the second day of her official tour of Jamaica on February 19, 2002, in Trenchtown, St. Andrew. Politicians in Jamaica have expressed a desire for the island nation to break away from the Commonwealth. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

William and Kate were met with protests on the tour including in Jamaica's capital, Kingston, with campaigners calling for an apology for slavery and reparations.

The Advocates Network, which organized the demonstration, issued an open letter to the couple, stating the Queen had "done nothing to redress and atone for the suffering of our ancestors."

Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, triggered a conversation about the crimes of Britain's past when he described the struggle in Commonwealth countries to "move forward."

Harry said: "When you look across the Commonwealth, there is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past."

Meghan said: "It's not just in the big moments, it's in the quiet moments where racism and unconscious bias lies and hides and thrives."