Why You Shouldn't Use the BLM Hashtag for Blackout Tuesday

Chelsey Sanchez
Photo credit: Instagram

From Harper's BAZAAR

If you've scrolled through your phone at all today, you may have noticed dozens of people on Instagram posting black tiles with the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday, something proponents say will help raise awareness for the nationwide uprisings that have erupted following the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by police last week.

Such posts, though easy in effort and innocuous in intention, have already been digested, regurgitated, and spit out by the rapid social media cycle, with some arguing that black tiles are not only ineffective at helping the Black Lives Matter movement but possibly detrimental. Below, we break down everything to know about #BlackoutTuesday, from how it started to how to effectively participate.

What is #BlackoutTuesday?

Two Black women in the music industry, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, initially started the social media campaign to hold the music industry accountable for profiting off Black talent and creatives. Originally called #TheShowMustBePaused, the initiative's intent to "disrupt the work week" has morphed into an altogether different beast as many began posting black tiles on Instagram with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, an important channel for activists and those protesting on the ground to spread news and resources.

In their original statement, Thomas and Agyemang wrote, "Tuesday, June 2nd is meant to intentionally disrupt the work week. Monday suggests a long weekend, and we can't wait until Friday for change. 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 explain how the multibillion-dollar music industry and its affiliates benefit from Black entertainment without empowering Black people at large. "To that end," they wrote, "it is the obligation of these entities to protect and empower the Black communities that have made them disproportionately wealthy in ways that are measurable and transparent. This is not just a 24-hour initiative. We are and will be in this fight for the long haul. A place of action will be announced."

You can keep up with their updates on their Instagram or Twitter account.

Why are people upset about posting the black tiles?

After people began to notice that the #BlackLivesMatter channel was flooded with black tiles, effectively blotting out any pressing news or resources for protesters and organizers, criticism began to mount online.

Kehlani retweeted a video of someone going through the recent #BlackLivesMatter posts, writing, "I don't like this."

Lil Nas X also pointed out the blacked-out hashtag channel. "This is not helping us," the musician wrote on Twitter. "Bro who the hell thought of this?? ppl need to see what's going on."

Another vein of criticism paints the black tiles as a form of virtue signaling, a pithy sign of solidarity that—without the accompaniment of material resources or support in the form of donations, information, protesting, or otherwise—renders the perhaps well-intentioned post moot.

So, what should I do?

If you've already posted a black tile with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, your safest bet is to delete it. As others have pointed out, even if you've changed the hashtag to #BlackoutTuesday, the post will still be featured on the original hashtag channel, thus contributing to the difficulty of disseminating critical information for organizers and others on the ground.

Another way to efficiently partake in today's campaign is to uplift and amplify the voices, content, and businesses of Black creators, while halting any self-promotion, selfies, or other banal posts from your daily life.

If you're still considering posting a black tile, it would be critical to use other hashtags like #BlackoutTuesday or #TheShowMustBePaused. Yet, even so, remember—especially if you are non-Black—that a movement is sustained beyond feel-good shows of solidarity. Take the time to post resources on protests, match donations to bail funds, and tough out difficult conversations with yourself and those around you. The fight won't be won on your Instagram feed.

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