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Race, Education and #BlackLivesMatter: How Social Media Activism Shapes the Educational Experiences of Black College-Age Women

  • Author(s): Tanksley, Tiera
  • Advisor(s): Noble, Safiya U;
  • Howard, Tyrone
  • et al.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement, which rose to prominence following the state-sanctioned murders of several unarmed Black Americans, shed light on the power of social media to serve as a platform for transformative resistance, counter-storytelling, and civic engagement for marginalized youth. With some of the highest rates of social media use to date, it is not altogether surprising that Black college-age youth, particularly young Black women, were the primary curators of the politicized social media storm that captured the nation’s attention and spurred a viral hashtag into a historical movement. While Black women’s persistent use of social media to enact resistance in their schools, in their communities and in popular media is indicative of its importance in their socio-academic experiences, there remains a substantial dearth in educational scholarship examining the nexus of race, gender and resistance as it relates to the digital realm. By drawing upon critical race theory in education (CRT), Black feminist thought (BFT), and Black Feminist Technology Studies (BFTS), this study centers the voices of 17 Black undergraduate women from eight universities across the US and Canada in an attempt to answer these research questions. Findings revealed the ability of social media to provide young Black women with a sense of safety, visibility, and community that is not regularly available in offline settings. In addition to the benefits of digital resistance, this study also illuminated a spectrum of unintended health impacts of reading, responding to and witnessing anti-Black violence online. A growing skepticism of internet technology to single handedly transform society also emerged from the findings.

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