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Lazily posting a black screen won’t help save innocent Black lives from being unjustly taken – stop treating the Black Lives Matter movement as your latest “feel-good” Instagram challenge.
Following the callous homicide of George Floyd and a week of fiery protesting, music industry giants such as Capitol Music Group and Warner Music Group pledged that they, “will not be conducting any business on Tuesday, June 2 in observance of “Blackout Tuesday.”
Instead, in a letter posted to their site, music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang state, “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.”
Many of us woke up early Tuesday morning confused by this latest “activist” trend: friends and family alike shrouded Instagram with black squares to quite literally participate in “Blackout Tuesday.”
Please ask yourself, is a stark black background hastily slapped onto our feeds with the caption “#BlackLivesMatter” really fulfilling the serious conversation meant to be held?
A screen-recording, posted to Twitter by activist Kendira Woods, of a scroll through pages and pages of black screens under the #BlackLivesMatter page on Instagram only further proves the harmful ability of solid black screens to clog up critical channels of information and updates on the protests and the movement.
It has come to my attention that many allies are using #BlackLivesMatter hashtag w black image on insta. We know that’s it no intent to harm but to be frank, this essentially does harm the message. We use hashtag to keep ppl updated. PLS stop using the hashtag for black images!! pic.twitter.com/eG2fPaybNW— Kenidra4Humanity ~ BLACK LIVES MATTER ~ (@KenidraRWoods_) June 2, 2020
Posts of this caliber are now considered the norm in a world where performative activism dominates social media. For those unaware, performative activism is “co-opting social justice movement, rhetoric or stance for personal or economical gain while also being very complicit in the very problem you’re perceiving to absolve.”
It’s so popular because it’s so easy, right?
Why take your chances against vicious police retaliation of rubber bullets and tear gas for protesting a system inherently created to place Black people at an advantage when you can post an aesthetically pleasing MLK quote instead?
Why sign petitions calling for the defunding of police or the charge of officers for heinous mistreatment of people of color when you can circulate “heart-warming” videos and pictures of blatantly obvious police propaganda instead?
Why pick up the phone and call government officials to take consequential action against those who kill Black individuals and leave their bodies to rot in the streets when you can tag ten of your closest friends on some useless Instagram story chain? Oh thank God, good to know that since you’ve been tagged in this chain you’re not a racist!
The truth of the matter is that it costs us absolutely nothing to click a couple of times and post an eye-catching graphic on our page. It doesn’t cost us our hard-earned money nor precious time ―all it does is delude you into feeling like you’ve contributed to helping end the century-long oppression of Black people in this country. No matter how much you think you’ve made your feed about “defending” the Black community, you are still selfishly serving yourself. You’re not supposed to “feel good” about uncomfortable and uneasy topics like racism; we don’t talk about it because we’re comfortable.
It’s not enough anymore to post graphics on Instagram. It’s not enough anymore to just pin a #BlackLivesMatter button on your backpack. It’s not enough anymore to praise people for not rapping the N-word in a song. It was never enough to just do the bare minimum.
A tweet posted by producer and cinematographer Rodney V. Smith regarding “Blackout Tuesday” reminds us of the grassroots movement’s purpose. “Blackout Tuesday does NOT mean to simply post a black picture and leave social media for the day,” stated Smith, “It means to stop promoting your own stuff for 24 hours, and instead amplify the voices & projects of Black creators, writers, directors, activists and more. pass it on.”
Taking the lead, streaming services such as Apple Music have suspended features such as the For You page, the Radio, or the Browse section. Instead, subscribers of Apple Music may choose to listen to music already in their library or tune into a live radio station promoting Black artists.
You can properly take part in this blackout too.
Take some time to shop from this list of Black-owned businesses that are deserving of your money.
Take some time to watch one of these essential powerful shows or documentaries highlighting racial injustice.
Take some time to check out this list of resources posted by the Muslim team on how you can better help the cause.
In the upcoming weeks, another Instagram challenge will rear its ugly head and countless of us will fall for the “feel-good trap.” I only pray we realize that for every black square we post or chain we get tagged in without doing research and hard work behind the screen — that is another Black life we’ve failed to protect.