Chris Rock in Twitter storm over 'driving while black'

Twitter. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Twitter. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - Comedian Chris Rock has sparked controversy on social media by posting pictures of police stopping him while driving.

Rock, known for edgy stand-up comedy where he exposes sensitive issues in society, has repeatedly used the theme of "Driving while Black" during his routine to illustrate what he believes is institutionalised racism in US policing.

The treatment of blacks in America by officers of the law is under the spotlight after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri last year.

In South Carolina recently an officer was also charged with murder for the shooting to death of 50 year old Walter Scott.

Video evidence showed Scott running away from the policeman when he was shot six times in the back. That shooting happened after a traffic stop for a broken back light.

The Ferguson shooting also resurfaced memories of the beating of Rodney King in 1991 after a car chase.

Amateur video footage that showed Los Angeles police beating King led to riots across the US and sparked questions in the country about police brutality, particularly against black males.

The suburb of St Louis saw days of rioting and looting as the community expressed its anger at the shooting, though the officer was ultimately found to have acted within the law.

With his latest traffic stop, Rock tweeted:

Twitter tracker Topsy reveals that the topic police shooting peaked with 35 500 tweets on April 8, significantly more than racism at 30 100.

Despite the social media storm, research reveals that interest quickly shifts.

A Pew research study in 2013 found that sentiment on social media can shift quickly. In the US, Twitter sentiment on same sex marriage shifted from 55% negative to 43% positive in a period of just one month.

The research noted that social media sentiment may match public opinion, but it was not a reliable indicator.

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