Breeze Harper's Thesis Proposal Outline:

What are the challenges that Black "technologically privileged" females encounter when using technology to combat social injustice?


I.          Introduction

A.    What is the Digital Divide?

B.    Explanation of Institutionalized Racism/Sexism

C.    Explanation/introduction of Black Female Activism (bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Alice Walker, etc)

D.    Explain how this thesis is an extension of your final project from Spring 2005 fall term, "In Our Own Words: Challenges to Black Female Leadership and Using Action Research to [Re-]Frame the Questions."

II.        Conceptual Framework

A.    Existing Literature

1.    Digital Divide

a.     The Digital Divide: Standing at the Intersection of Race and Technology (book) by Raneta Lawson Mack.

b.    "Cyber-Race" (article) by Jerry King. Harvard Law Review. Vol 113:1130.

c.     "Black Liberation and the Internet: A Strategic Analysis." by Colin A. Beckles. Journal of Black Studies Vol 31:3 January 2001. 311-324.

d.    Race, Rhetoric, and Technology: Searching for Higher Ground (book) by Adam J. Banks.

2.    Black females and challenges to leadership and/or social justice activism

a.     "In Our Own Words: Challenges to Black Female Leadership and Using Action Research to [Re-]Frame the Questions." By Amie Louise Harper. This paper can be found at

b.    "Finding a Place in Cyberspace: Black Women, Technology, and Identity." by Michelle Wright. Frontiers: 2005 Vol 26:1

c.     "In Defense of Themselves: The Black Student Struggle for Success and Recognition at Predominantly White Colleges and Universities." By Joy Ann Williamson. The Journal of Negro Eduction, vol 68:1, Preparing Students for the New Millenium: Exploring Factors that Contribute to the Successful Eduction of African American Students (Winter, 1999), 92-105.

d.    "Coping with the Unexpected: Black Faculty at Predominantly White Institutions" by Bonita K. Butner et all. Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 30: 3 (Jan 2000), 453-462.

e.     "Introduction and Overview: New and Continuing Challenges and Opportunities for Black Women in the Academy." by Florence B. Bonner and Veronica G. Thomas. The Journal of Negro Education, Vol 70:3, Black Women in the Academy: Challenges and Opportunities (Summer, 2001), 121-123.

f.     Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America by Charisse Jones and Kumea Shorter, Ph.D. (book)

3.    Leadership and Women

a.     "A Re-articulation of Black Female Community Leadership: Process, Networks and a Culture of Resistance." by Beverlyn Lundy Allen, Ph.D., Sociologist, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.

b.    Race, Gender, and Leadership: Re-Envisioning Organizational Leadershhip From the Perspectives of African American Women Executives (book) by Patricia S. Parker.

B.    Personal Interests

1.    My interests stem from working in technology departments for the past eight years as a Black female.

2.    I work at a non-profit that engages in social activism and I have experienced the intersection of "White privilege" and using technology for activism and want to future investigate my own personal experiences as well as similar experiences from many of my Black identified female friends who  are "technologically privileged" anengage in social activism using technology.

3.    I would like to:

a.     *add to the burgeoning field of "White Privilege Studies" by reframing common theories on the Digital Divide

b.    *investigate why I have found that mainstream Americans are convinced that equal access to technology for all will "magically" cure legacies of imperialism and slavery, experienced by a majority of Blacks as institutionalized racism.

III.       Proposed Research

A.    Research Goals/Questions

1.    I want to understand why particular Black college-educated females doing social activism with technology seem to contradict the mainstream theories of Digital Divide and "technology accessibility" as a "cure" to inequality for marginalized populations.

2.    I want to understand how I can move beyond the Digital Divide discourse and look at technology access and social activism from the perspective of a particular "technologically privileged" group of Black females.

3.    Is economic class the real reason there is a Digital Divide? Why do Black college educated females with access to technology still have challenges in being leaders in activism?

4.    Will the women who will be part of my research support or deconstruct the notion the abolishment of the Digital Divide is the key to racial, gender and class equality?

5.    How does institutionalized "White privilege" re-shape theories about technology access when we look at leadership and social activism among "privileged" Black American females?

B.    Research Sites

1.    Harvard University

2.    Museum of Fine Art

3.    Project Think Different

4.    YouthBuild USA

6.    Northeastern University

7.    UC Santa Barbara Race and Technology Initiative

IV.       Methods of Data Collection

A.    Videotaping

B.    Audio-Recording

C.    Online Questionnaires

D.    Informal dialogues/interviews with individual Black women.

E.     Focus Groups with the Black Females from the May 4th gathering from In Our Own Words along with new people who didn't attend the first gathering. If the technology is available, I would like to invite people to go on-line to participate in a real-time streaming video or audio of the focus group. These would be people that I can't have here because they live in another state.

F.     I may also do a CFP from Black girls and women who also want to write narratives about their challenges in using technology for activism.

1.    I can post my CFP on H-Net and similar sites

2.    I can also send mass emails to non-profit organization that engage in social justice activism as well as Blacks Studies and Women's Studies departments.

V.        Methods of Analysis

A.    Single-Case Analysis of each of informal dialogue/interviews with individual Black females.

B.    Cross-Case Analysis.

VI.       Validity Issues

A.    80% of my research "subjects" will be my friends. I am not sure if this is a validity issues. If anything, maybe they'd be more comfortable and honest with me because we're friends and have a shared experience of being Black "technologically privileged" college-educated women.

B.    I will need more help with finding more validity issues.

VII.     Ethical Issues

A.    I am not sure yet. Any suggestions?

VIII.    Preliminary Findings

A.    Debbie’s Experiences. Debbie is as an art student who uses multimedia technology in her artwork to combat institutionalized racism and similar forms of oppression. Though she is computer literate and has access to multimedia technology, she notes that she had to prove to her colleagues and professor why her work is important; work that resists institutionalized oppression and gives voice to unspoken atrocities that have occurred to Black Americans. Her challenges of using technology as a tool for her art work and anti-racism are quite fascinating. Mainly, being a Black woman in a program dominated by Euro-Anglo centric perceptions of what art and technology should be used for.  Despite having broken through the Digital Divide, this obviously has not been the “magical pill” to eliminate institutionalized racism, oblivion to White Privilege, and similar. With this small finding, I would like to dig deeper and ask why Debbie’s “perceived leadership capacity” is negatively viewed by her White professors, despite the fact that she is very technologically literate and college educated. Why do her professors not support her use of technology/multimedia when she uses it to explore critical race theory and Black Feminist theory?  How does this re-frame the discourse around the Digital Divide as the "cure-all" to social inequality in the USA?

B.    Melanie’s Experiences. From In Our Own Words gathering May 4th, Melanie, shared a narrative about working at a non-profit with three other people. She worked for an organization started by three White men who had been born into wealth.  Melanie is a working class Black woman. She described how easily the men got funding for the things they needed- including technology- to start up a new Charter School. She explained that these three men had a sense of "entitlement" which stemmed from White and Male privilege. She explained to me that without a decent well written proposal or coherent plan, these men were "showered" with resources simply because of the perceptions philanthropists (who were mainly were White at the time) have of the leadership potential of White men doing non-profit work. She explained that if it had been four Black women who needed funding to get the technology they needed to do their work, the outcome would have been very different. In other words, they would not have been “showered” with resources.