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Through a white lens: Black victimhood, visibility, and whiteness in the Black Lives Matter movement on TikTok
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies. (Digsum)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3665-2476
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies. (Digsum)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5028-0408
2023 (English)In: Information, Communication and Society, ISSN 1369-118X, E-ISSN 1468-4462, Vol. 26, no 10, p. 1996-2014Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper, we explore how highly visible users in the context of #BlackLivesMatter on TikTok shape the narrative around Black victims of police brutality, the understanding of these narratives by others, and the potential consequences of these portrayals for the movement at large. To examine these dimensions, we analysed the 100 most circulated TikTok videos and associated comments depicting victims of police brutality using the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag through multimodal critical discourse analysis. We identified how users attempted to increase visibility of their content, and how this was supported or criticised by commenters depending on the perceived motives of these efforts. Furthermore, we showcased how influencers raised awareness of the movement with little personal effort or risk, sometimes appearing to leverage the movement for self-exposure. Our analysis showed that many of the most liked videos were made by white content creators who, in their videos, seemed to be addressing an imagined white audience. While these efforts portrayed the movement favourably, the content creators remain outsiders who have not themselves been in harm's way of police brutality. While there were exceptions that promoted the perspectives of marginalised communities, and while the white narratives were consistently supportive of the movement, they also work to displace focus on racial (in)justice away from those directly affected by it, that is, away from Black people’s own experiences of police brutality. We discuss these findings in relation to questions about digital representations of Black victimhood, digital visibility and practices of whiteness, on TikTok and beyond.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2023. Vol. 26, no 10, p. 1996-2014
Keywords [en]
Critical victimology, Social movements studies, TikTok, Imagined audiences, Black Lives Matter
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
media and communication studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-194319DOI: 10.1080/1369118x.2022.2065211ISI: 000788914400001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85132393346OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-194319DiVA, id: diva2:1655272
Funder
The Swedish Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority, 09413/2020Available from: 2022-05-02 Created: 2022-05-02 Last updated: 2023-09-05Bibliographically approved

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Eriksson Krutrök, MoaÅkerlund, Mathilda

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
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