A Blank Post Isn’t Enough: Here Are Useful Ways To Use Your Platform On Blackout Tuesday

Photo: Albert Llop/NurPhoto/Getty Images.
If you woke up this morning confused about your Instagram feed being shrouded in darkness thanks to black squares posted on many people’s timelines, you’re not alone. Originally introduced by Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang as The Show Must Be Paused, Blackout Tuesday was created to push the music industry to pause all promotions for 24 hours, and instead reflect on and discuss the actions that need to be taken to better support the Black community. 
Somewhere along the way, however, it turned into something else. Now, according to social media, it’s a day for people to post a black square on Instagram to show solidarity with Black people and silence your own voice and content. But the implications of this action became a bit complicated when millions of people flooded the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, which has been used to spread important information about protests, police violence, and the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and more. As many are trying to navigate allyship and educate themselves, it’s important to understand the history of this social media movement, and what it actually stands for — beyond just black squares.
The hashtag #BlackoutDay was initially created around 2015 by Mars, a Black woman in Brooklyn, who encouraged Black people to use days to flood the internet with photos of themselves, their art, and highlight Black beauty. But Mars has since posted that the hashtag and language was co-opted
Shortly after people began to bombard Instagram with black squares after midnight on Tuesday, many Black people took to social media to let white people know why this movement feels performative rather than actionable. Chance the Rapper said that using the hashtag in this way is actually erasing all of the information about police violence and protests that was previously being shared. Lil Nas X also pointed out that this isn’t the time to be silent or slow down the Black Lives Matter movement by not posting, saying, “I just really think this is the time to push as hard as ever. i don’t think the movement has ever been this powerful. we don’t need to slow it down by posting nothing. we need to spread info and be as loud as ever.” Isra Hirsi, a young Black organizer and the daughter of Ilhan Omar, tweeted, “black screens don’t do anything for Black lives.”
This isn’t to say that the action of digital advocacy isn’t important. But it does speak to a problem among non-Black people who are posting these black squares without ever speaking out before, and often in lieu of taking other steps to stand in solidarity with the movement to end violence against Black people. “I think the Black Out thing is an example of … people wanting to be seen doing some thing and not taking the time to consider if it’s the right or most effective something to do,” a person named Danie said on Twitter
White and non-Black people have long been silent, which is exactly the problem in the first place, so a day of silence in which white people continue to stay silent redirects the message entirely. And this isn’t to diminish the effort of Blackout Tuesday — it’s a call to action to do more and do better. 
Allyship, and checking your privilege, will go hand in hand with difficult conversations about what is the best action you can take right now. Black people need tangible, material support, and there are many ways you can use social media to amplify Black people’s voices and center their needs. Posting a black square to your Instagram is not going to create any change — especially if you are co-opting the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. It’s important to recognize what this does and delete your post if you chose to continue participating. Moreover, sharing resources, donating, and using whatever platform you have to de-center yourself can make a difference. Ahead, we’ve provided some ways that you can participate in Blackout Tuesday that go beyond the black square.

Organizations and funds to donate to

Black Visions Collective, a social justice organization that centers healing and transformative justice principles
Unicorn Riot
Unicorn Riot is an independent media nonprofit that shares stories of people whose voices have been silenced. 
North Star Health Collective
This collective is group of health care providers who help to create safer environments for protesters. 
National Bail Fund Network
This network will help you find any bail fund in communities across America that you can donate to. Many have been flooded by donations and will redistribute any unneeded funds.
ActBlue Split Your Donation
This ActBlue page that will let you split your donation between 38 different community bail funds.
Funds for destroyed Black owned businesses
Meriyah Smith, a person from Atlanta Georgia, created a GoFundMe to raise money to help the Black owned business that have been destroyed there recently.
Gas mask fund
This fund was started by and for Black people in Minneapolis who need to buy gas masks for protesters’ safety

Support Black-owned businesses

Supporting the Black business owners in your community is a step toward creating actionable change and giving back to local institutions that feed and clothe you. An example of this, for people in Los Angeles, includes this list of Black owned businesses you can support and donate to right now. These apps and websites can also help you navigate Black businesses in your area where you can spend money right now. 

Help Black people access mental health care

A group of black therapists is currently offering 1-2 free virtual sessions for Black people who were a part of protests in Chicago. This is something you can promote on your page, or help find other local therapists in your area who will offer the same thing. One journalist started a therapy relief fund for Black journalists who currently feel overwhelmed and need help, and this is a resource worth sharing with your platform. If you want a more universal option, this Twitter “event” was created to highlight mental health care resources for Black people.

Use your platform where it counts

Support initiatives like No New Jails NYC, which fights against new jails and prison being created in communities in New York.
Share the National Lawyers Guild hotline number (212-679-6018) on social media and make sure people you know can get legal help if they’re attending protests
Demand policy change by sharing numbers to your local representatives where fellow digital activists can call and ask for things like a halt to police funding or redirection of tax dollars.

Offer resources to protestors in your community

If you are able and willing, there are ways to help that go outside of your digital platform. For protestors, you can provide a car ride, a safe home for people to find shelter, water, snacks, or a bathroom break in. These small actions go a long way to people who are on the frontlines of this fight. 

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