Why the “Blackout Tuesday” Initiative on Instagram Is Drawing Criticism
If you've opened up Instagram or Twitter today, chances are that you've seen posts of a single black blank square, sometimes with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackOutTuesday.
In the wake of George Floyd's murder and the subsequent worldwide protests to demand justice, people have been sharing the posts as a means of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. However, many of the posts have been criticized for drowning out necessary information and resources that can help the movement, and have been called out for being performative.
Here's everything you need to know about "Blackout Tuesday."
What is Blackout Tuesday?
Atlantic Records exec Jamila Thomas and Platoon Senior Artist Campaign Manager Brianna Agyemang started the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused as a way for the music industry to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
"It is a day to take a beat for an honest, reflective, and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community," they wrote.
Other music industry companies jumped on board, vowing to observe "Blackout Tuesday" and pause normal business operations.
What are people doing?
As the movement picked up steam on social media, more people outside of the music industry began posting black squares on social media in support for Black Lives Matter and protestors who have spoken out about George Floyd's death. Some people have been sharing resources to bring about policy change along with posts of black squares, sometimes with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
Some have interpreted the original idea as a vow to not post anything on Tuesday, save for a black square, out of respect for the situation, while others have taken it as a call to pause on posting anything unrelated to Black Lives Matter rather than complete silence online.
Why has it been criticized?
While showing solidarity is important and can be well-intentioned, some have pointed out that posting a black square and using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter prevents critical information from showing up in that hashtag, effectively clogging out activists, helpful resources, as well as photos and videos of protests.
People have also pointed out that now is not the moment to be silent — instead, it's time to be helpful and share resources and ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
How can you be helpful?
If you're posting a blank black square today, make sure not to use the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter or #BLM. Instead, you can use the hashtag #BlackOutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused. If you already posted with the BLM hashtag, you should remove your post since it's already cached.
And perhaps most importantly, include resources in your caption to help raise awareness on how people can take action, support the movement, be better allies, and be more informed. Amplify Black voices in the movement, and direct people to organizations such as Black Lives Matter and The NAACP Legal Defense, or bail funds that are assisting protestors who have been arrested. It's not that posting a black box is inherently "bad" — it's that the work has to go beyond that. We need to use every opportunity we have to take action, whether that means donating, signing petitions, or keeping people informed by linking to important organizations.