Abstract: Voices of Micro-Resistance, Validation, and Affirmation in the Black@Pwi Twitter Campaign (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Voices of Micro-Resistance, Validation, and Affirmation in the Black@Pwi Twitter Campaign

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Valley of the Sun B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Valandra ., PhD, Associate Professor, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
LaShawnda Fields, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
Warrington Sebree, MA, Law Student, Howard University
Whitney Sober, BA, Law Student, University of Arkansas
Background and Purpose: For decades Black students have organized sit-ins, boycotts, strikes, and other protests to push for reforms against racist ideologies, policies, and practices on White college and university campuses across the nation. Engagement in cyberactivism has emerged as another method employed by marginalized groups to amplify their voices. Digital activism experts emphasize the role technologies play in protest mobilization, political action, and social movements. However, according to some research, many marginalized groups have not been able to harness the power needed to effect macro-level changes through digital activism. Less research has focused on individual counter narratives of micro-resistance imbedded within hashtag campaigns.

Guided by critical race theory, this paper helps to fill this gap by examining a sample of tweets from a 2020 twitter campaign, #Black@pwi, initiated by Black students to address anti-Black racism at a predominantly white institution (PWI) in the southern region of the United States. The campaign was launched after members of a white fraternity on campus mocked the murder of Mr. George Floyd on social media. The authors examined counter narratives articulated through a sample of tweets to understand how students framed their racialized experiences, challenged white liberal ideologies of colorblindness, and were supported by the broader community in their right to assert their humanity in a campus climate of racial hostility.

Methods: The sampling frame for this study consisted of a list of 1,584 hyperlinks to screen names of tweets roughly spanning the month of June. Random sampling approaches consistent with analyzing twitter data were used to select a sample of 160 (10%) tweets from the beginning, middle, and end of the list for a total of 480 (30%) tweets. A phenomenological lens was used for the data analysis to gain an understanding of participants lived experiences within the situated context of their collective experiences as racialized students. Only original tweets were used in this analysis, but it should be noted that by the middle of June the hashtag #black@pwi was trending with over 9,000 tagged tweets, retweets, and likes. It went viral and was covered in statewide news outlets. Data was coded using a structured method offered by Moustakas (1994) and simplified by Creswell (2007).

Findings: The data analysis reveals that students use a variety of strategies to resist racism and challenge white liberal assertions of colorblindness. Some strategies included naming and confronting racist incidents, affirming their humanity, educating the ignorant, emotional management, and discerning when and how to respond. Students also garnered the support of a variety of stakeholders in their efforts to hold the administration accountable for addressing campus racial inequities with direct calls for action. In response to the tweeter campaign, some campus departments also tweeted specific anti-racism action plans.

Conclusions and Implications: Findings highlight the importance of how the collective power of validating and affirming Black students’ experiences of racism can be harvested beyond the walls of academia through digital campaigns to expand the drive toward racial justice on college campuses.