Black Out Tuesday is a great idea as we fight for equal rights and justice, however, as we take part in this movement we must be careful we are not censoring important messages that need to get to the masses.
It’s Blackout Tuesday, a day promoted by activists to observe, mourn and bring about policy change in the wake of the death of George Floyd. This movement has spread on social media, where organizations, brands and individuals are posting solemn messages featuring stark black backgrounds, sometimes tagging the posts with #BlackLivesMatter.
Here’s the problem. While these posts may be well-intended, several activists and influencers have pointed out that posting a blank black image with a bunch of tags clogs up critical channels of information and updates. Protests are still raging around the country. Arrests are piling up by the thousands. Visibility for different groups and activist projects are key right now. And one of the most common ways to keep track of all of this is by monitoring or searching tags.
“We know that’s it no intent to harm but to be frank, this essentially does harm the message,” mental health advocate and Black Lives Matter activist Kenidra Woods posted on Twitter. “We use hashtag to keep ppl updated. PLS stop using the hashtag for black images!!” A video scroll of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on Instagram proves her point: It’s row after row of black squares, with very few posts of note in between.
Don’t use the #BlackLivesMatter tag, activists say.
There are two issues here: One, the actual tags used on Blackout Tuesday posts. Two, the actual purpose of posting a black image in the first place.
When you post an image with a tag on, say, Twitter or Instagram, it gets automatically added to a searchable feed, which people can find using that tag. It’s a common way for people to monitor a situation or interest. And since people have been including the #BlackLivesMAtter tag, in the words of activist Feminista Jones, the protests have been erased from Instagram.
“When you check the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, it’s no longer videos, helpful information, resources, documentation of the injustice, it’s rows of black screens,” music artist Kehlani explained on her Instagram story.