On May 252020, 46-year-old George Perry Floyd, a black man, was killed at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer. One day after, protests ensued in Minneapolis to show solidarity and demand justice for Floyd, as well as an end to police brutality against the Black community.
After week-long protests and physical riots spread across the United States, yesterday, on June 2 2020, social media started to see an influx of posts with a solid black background.
In an effort that was called Blackout Tuesday (also known as Black Out Tuesday), the initial goal was for everyday workers and brands to pause their activities, take a day off of their jobs and work, and focus on promoting and finding opportunities for their own form of activism instead.
As such, efforts amongst corporations to promote a focus on the subject were seen. On Blackout Tuesday, Apple Music paused its usual Beats 1 radio schedule, instead suggesting to their listeners that they should tune in to a radio stream that promotes some of Black music’s best.
Replacing the usual Browse, Radio, and For You sections, users were confronted with a message and a Listen Together button that redirects to the pro-Black station previously mentioned.
At 5 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, children’s network Nickelodeon also went silent for 8 minutes and 46 seconds (the amount of time the police officer kept his knees on Floyd’s neck for). The aired video, with the title “I Can’t Breathe.”, featured the sound of an individual breathing in and out through its entirety (referencing some of Floyd’s tragic last words). Other ViacomCBS entertainment channels pausing their programming followed. Call-to-action promoting ways to help the Black community was also included alongside the clips.
But what happened on social media was a different story; celebrities and everyday people alike started posting images with a solid black color. And while this was not a blameworthy feat in itself, it is important to highlight some of its issues.
Firstly, the most overlooked aspect by many arose from the pictures being posted under the BlackLivesMatter hashtag. What this resulted in was the influx of solid black images flooding the movement’s hashtag, making information and resources difficult to find for those wanting to educate themselves on the current situation. Instead of pictures of protests, images demanding justice and peace, visuals offering call-to-action for organizations to donate to and causes to support during this time, #BlackLivesMatter on social media was enwrapped in total silence and complete darkness.
Some used the aforementioned black box to promote their own supposed activism and solidarity after being called out for actions going against the goal of the movement.
American Horror Story actor Evan Peters retweeted a video of an individual laughing at the television as police chased and attacked a protestor. After being called out for sharing the disturbing video, what Peters did was delete the retweeted content from his feed and post a black square in its place.
Since then, he has apologized for his actions, stating that he “unknowingly retweeted it”.
Most questioned this statement, highlighting that him retweeting content by accident is highly unlikely.
Instead of posting black squares to your social media and staying silent for the sake of activism, it is encouraged that one does the exact opposite. Use your voice to bring attention to the subject, promote ways to help the Black community in the time of need, donate to organizations born to help their people, and fight locally against a problem that has been causing the destruction of Black spirits and lives for centuries.
Written by: Nagy Béla-Zsolt