Two black women working in music marketing– Brianna Agyemag and Jamila Thomas– proposed that a day off must be held on the music industry on Tuesday as a reflection after the death of African-American George Floyd in the hands of the Minneapolis police.
However, what started as a targeted effort immediately escalated as a sea of black boxes posted on Instagram and other social media platforms. These black boxes were under the banner #blackouttuesday. They were posted by musicians, creatives, brands, and public and everyday individuals who wanted to voice out their support towards the black community and solidarity for racial justice. Show your support here.
Some individuals vowed that they would mute themselves online for a day or a week as a part of the protest. However, others also showed concern and said that silence was not the answer. Some also said that using the hashtag #blacklivesmatter when posting messages that support the black community is doing more harm than good and is drowning out other posts under the same slogan. After several hours, a lot of people were deleting their posts that contain the said hashtag. It’s time to do your part now. Support lives that matter now.
Instagram Blackout in the Perspective of Four Women
The New York Times, a news platform, posted an interview with four women of colors from Styles. Tariro Mzezewa, a travel reporter, Jasmine Howard, an operations manager, Caity Weaver, a Styles reporter, and Lindsey Underwood, an editor from Styles.
The interview revolved around the blackout that happened on Instagram.
According to Lindsey, she does not often post on the said platform. But during the blackout, she felt that she needed to post. Seeing her Instagram newsfeed flooded with black boxes, Lindsey felt the need to post one, too, but according to her, it seems as if she could not pull the trigger. Her hesitance is that she felt conflicted seeing many of her white friends posting the blackout with probably some great intentions. She also said that she imagined how much satisfaction her friends felt for speaking out. However, she is not sure whether posting a blackout would really accomplish something.
Howard backed up what Lindsey said and voiced that maybe some of those who posted a blackout just did so because they feel like they will be left out if they would not.
Social Media Likes Skyrocket with Allyship
On the other hand, Tariro said that social media has already seen allyship that is performative and sincere ever since the death of George Floyd while he was in police custody. She also noted that some people might approach something like this with skepticism at some point.
Furthermore, Tariro pointed out that it is great to see that people want a uniting symbol of solidarity. However, she also sees how individuals who have never said anything in the past or even in the past week would post that symbol because they feel like they will look bad if they would not. For this reason, these people post on their social media accounts without the real intention of learning, listening, donating, protesting, or even helping beyond their post. For these people, the posting is equivalent to doing their part.
Moreover, Howard said that she had received many “tell me how to be better” and “ I love you” messages from her white friends who are trying to be allies. According to her, it seems that some of the senders of those messages were expecting that she would immediately respond and acknowledge the fact that they checked on a black friend. And while they might have done something for a black friend, Howard notes that she is still the one to do the work of fighting for the black community’s rights.
The Initial Reaction to the Growing Facebook Likes
On the other hand, Weaver said that her initial reaction to the posts was to feel empty. While some of her black friends posted the blackout, most of those who posted were her white friends. So, Weaver texted a few of her black friends and some of her non-black friends. Doing this allowed her to find out that most black people did not like the blackout. This caused a growth of Facebook likes to her profile and post history.
Tariro said that posting the blackout is a way for those white people to act like they are doing something when they are not comfortable to talk about racism but do not want to avoid doing so entirely. So, instead of facing the real thing that makes them uncomfortable, they post a black square as a protest and feel like they have already done something.
Cross-Posting The Story to Instagram
Also, Weaver said that she had a white friend who posted videos on her Instagram story, where she was in a protest. This friend of hers also shared information and links about activism on her Instagram Stories. Weaver also pointed out that her white friend did not have the usual tone of her Instagram posts, which made her feel genuinely touched. Besides, she said that what her white friend did make her feel happy and supported.
The next day after seeing those Instagram Stories, Weaver checked if her friend posted a blackout. Weaver found out that she did not. For this reason, she sent her a message saying that she personally appreciated all the effort and that she does not feel happy about the circulating blackout posts. According to Weaver, she wanted her friend to know that her efforts mattered more to her.
However, after that, Weaver’s white friend uploaded a blackout on her newsfeed and Instagram Stories.
Brands Love the Blackout to Show Support for Black People When They Do Not Even Mean It
Another thing emphasized in the interview was the brands’ involvement in the protest. While brands donate to support the black community, Weaver does not see them as something to look for inspiration from. According to Tariro, she did a quick scroll on some of her favorite brands. For weeks ever since the death of George Floyd, they were completely silent. But when the blackout became popular, they posted a black square, indicating that the solidarity they show might not really be sincere.