A seemingly well-intentioned gesture of posting black boxes for Blackout Tuesday has backfired spectacularly, unintentionally — or perhaps even purposefully, depending on who’s doing the posting — drowning out information related to the Black Lives Matter movement and its associated hashtags.
Blackout Tuesday was originally meant to raise awareness about systemic racism and police brutality that resulted in senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others — the deaths of whom have prompted nationwide protests over the racial injustice in the U.S. Jamila Thomas of Atlantic Records and Platoon’s Brianna Agyemang started #TheShowMustBePaused — an initiative to bring attention to the deaths of Floyd, Taylor, and Arbery, and others — to encourage a day of “observance of the long-standing racism and inequality that exists form the boardroom to the boulevard” as one part of a larger, more long-term effort, according to their website.
Many took Thomas and Agyemang’s efforts and encouraged others to post black squares on social media, especially Instagram, to show their support for the initiative. But critics were quick to point out that as soon as Blackout Tuesday (or Black Out Tuesday) began, the #BlackLivesMatter and #BLM feeds, which can serve vital on-the-ground information for activists, were being flooded instead with an endless feed of black squares.
— Rubén (@xoxorubenangel) June 2, 2020
my initial thought is it feels dangerous… because once you click on the blm hashtag you’re directed to an overflow of black images, instead of other more useful content people could look at for information. pic.twitter.com/QiaHPeoWGP
— A (@atothebed) June 2, 2020
Given the importance of social media in activists’ efforts to organise, it’s important to be mindful about how even well-meaning initiatives can disrupt a fragile ecosystem — especially when there are other ways to contribute. Rather than sharing a low-effort post on social media — as so, so many brands did this week in apparent displays of solidarity that felt not only hollow but also grossly opportunistic — consider any number of alternative efforts shared by Agyemang and Thomas, including by donating to the family of Floyd; helping the family of Arbery; or demanding for justice for Taylor. You can also donate to community bail funds to help support protestors actively working to combat police brutality and fight systemic injustice.
Looking for additional ways to advocate for Black lives? Check out this by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.