PRO/CON: Blackout Tuesday

Did Blackout Tuesday raise or decrease awareness behind Black Lives Matter?

June 14, 2020

Pro: The true meaning behind the movement

What started off as two marketing representatives hoping to initiate a conversation on black oppression in the music industry, quickly evolved into a social media campaign that further proved the unity behind the Black Lives Matter movement. 

On June 2, a day now known as Blackout Tuesday, users across various social media platforms were encouraged to post a blank black square to promote a sense of solidarity with the black community. 

While solely posting a black square conveys a limited and suppressing message, its original purpose still stands. That this day should be remembered as a movement that brought people together on a greater scale in hopes of furthering the calls of change and freedom advocated by the movement.

This social media campaign, in its original form, was created by Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, both distinguished black women in the marketing sector of the music industry. After seeing the Black Lives Matter movement take the nation by storm, Thomas and Agyemang worked together to create an organization, The Show Must Be Paused, calling for members of the music community to halt all work, reflect and learn more about the movement. 

It wasn’t until major artists like Rihanna and Yoko Ono spread this campaign that their plan began to pick up speed. However, like many ideas that gain popularity through social media, the once meaningful movement was quickly misunderstood and reduced to the hashtags and black boxes seen on Instagram last Tuesday. 

Nevertheless, this day holds an importance that should not be negated, regardless of the fact that some may see it as a simple trend. Adding to the information that spread across social media platforms, many people, myself included, used Blackout Tuesday to further educate themselves and others about the current revolution. 

Those who did voice opposition to this campaign, such as activist Kenidra Woods and writer Anthony James William, argued that informative posts tagged #BlackLivesMatter were being replaced with pictures of black squares. 

While it may be true that those who posted using the hashtag impeded the spread of important information, their ignorance should not reflect poorly on those who participated in the day mindfully.

Some included vital information and links in their posts, directing people to sites where they could support the black community by signing petitions, emailing representatives in state governments and more, all in an effort to be effective allies to the movement.

Critics also pointed out that the black boxes hindered information from spreading by encouraging people to remain silent on issues surrounding Black Lives Matter. Instead of continuing the circulation of information, people stopped spreading articles, websites and photos with significant information.

While this argument may seem plausible at first, the black squares, in turn, didn’t stop users from promoting and supporting the movement. Rather, social media platforms continued to be flooded with important posts and information, varying from dates to attend protests to companies founded by the black community.

I cannot speak for others, but this day taught me more about the movement than I can admit. Though I remained silent throughout the day on social media, in reality, I used the day to research the roots of the Black Lives Matter movement and further my understanding of the continual oppression of the black community in our society. 

Despite being a person of color, I will never be able to understand the amount of pain, tragedy and discrimination that the black community faces on a daily basis. The least that I could do was take time to truly educate myself, sign petitions and be a part of this revolutionary time in history. 

Blackout Tuesday wasn’t just a trend or an excuse; it was a way for us to show the black community that we stand by them and will forever support their basic, unalienable human rights.

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Con: Social Media Movement was a Misfire

On the morning of June 2, Instagram users searching for information related to the Black Lives Matter movement were greeted by a flood of black squares. 

This movement, dubbed Blackout Tuesday, was started by two black women in the music marketing industry under the name The Show Must Be Paused in response to the death of George Floyd. It was intended to limit information unrelated to the Black Lives Matter movement for a day so that informative posts about the protests and movement could be more easily accessed on the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. 

Instead, this effort harmed the movement more than it helped as well-intentioned participants and fame-seeking influencers, ignoring the meaning behind Blackout Tuesday, drowned out the voices of activists with black squares. 

To take part in Blackout Tuesday, non-black participants were supposed to post a solid black square and nothing else to show solidarity with protesters and amplify messages from the black community.

What caused confusion and ultimately the downfall of the Instagram movement was that many people made the mistake of posting the square along with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which was meant to be left clear for informational posts that day. 

Tags are used to categorize posts, and people who want to look for helpful information regarding the Black Lives Matter Movement would generally search under the Black Lives Matter hashtag. But due to the colossal amount of blank black squares tagged with #BLM or #BlackLivesMatter, all helpful information was swept away that day.

The blame for this disaster falls mainly on the issue of poor communication and organization. Despite the well-informed contributors who mentioned not using the hashtag, not enough people got the message in time, or simply did not care enough to follow instructions. Thus, a promising internet campaign was ruined.

The Blackout Tuesday dilemma worsened when participants decided to take things a step further and announced that to better use their silence to help further the movement’s cause, they would log off Instagram for the entire day. 

This backfired as more people began copying these actions. 

“The people with enough resources and fame to create real change in the industry are just…logged off,” Zoe Haylock wrote for Vulture magazine.

Examples of this include Kylie Jenner, Tom Holland and Rihanna, who did not open any of her personal or business social media accounts.

That afternoon, posts that described how content was getting blacked-out due to the incorrect use of hashtags began to appear. Activists and leaders of activist groups were speaking out about how Blackout Tuesday was a detriment to the movement.

Activist Michelle Taylor, better known as Femenista Jones, tweeted that the black squares had erased the protests from Instagram, and co-founder of Campaign Zero and activist Brittany Cunningham, in an article for NBC News, asked media users to reconsider participating in Blackout Tuesday.

“It appears that the righteous efforts of two black women in the music industry who created #TheShowMustBePaused for their industry to learn and develop new plans for racial justice got co-opted to create digital protest suppression,” Cunningham said in an Instagram post. 

Although the use of social media to champion justice is a good idea, events need to be planned out with greater care in order to prevent incidents like these from happening again.

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