Campus Reform | Professor: '#BlueLivesMatter' is a form of 'ambient digital racism'

Professor: '#BlueLivesMatter' is a form of 'ambient digital racism'

'Ambient digital racism' is a 'new, sophisticated and even elegant way of expressing racism,' according to the Simmons University scholar.

The professor discussed the term in an interview for his project titled 'It’s Not How You Say It, It’s What You Say: Ambient Digital Racism and Racist Discourses on Twitter.'

One professor is suggesting that using the hashtag “BlueLivesMatter” on social media is a form of “ambient digital racism,” a form of purported hate speech he likens to background noise. 

Felipe Agudelo, an assistant professor of public health at Simmons University, claims in an interview on June 2 with his university that ambient digital racism is a “new, sophisticated and even elegant way of expressing racism."

Agudelo extended his charges of "ambient digital racism" to the terms “#AllLivesMatter, #WhiteLivesMatter, and #BlueLivesMatter."

“These hashtags represent counter narratives because the argument of ‘You (BLM) are not the only ones that matter’ misses the point of what BLM is saying,” Agudelo said. “We wanted to see how those counter narrative expressions, what we call ambient digital racism, can be confused with normal, casual racist talk that appears harmless but is actually deeply racist.”

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Agudelo went on to argue that "ambient digital racism" is fueled by America's "racist society."

“Right now, we live in a racist society, therefore, we have racist people, racist behaviors, racist thoughts, and we have racist knowledge”. Agudelo continues to say, “That racist knowledge has been posed in our society, so when someone decides to hashtag #WhiteLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter, that person—based on the elective affinity theory—has a meaning affinity with that group”.

The goal of the university's interview was to promote Agudelo’s current project titled “It’s Not How You Say It, It’s What You Say: Ambient Digital Racism and Racist Discourses on Twitter.” The project looks into “counter narrative tweets to Black Lives Matter hashtags.”

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A study in January made similar points about digital racism. In that article, the researches claimed that memes are used “covert[ly]” to spread racism, and that social media companies encourage racism. The researchers wrote, “Racist speech thrives on social media, including through covert tactics such as the weaponization of memes."

Campus Reform has reached out to Professor Felipe Agudelo for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.