Participating In Blackout Tuesday? Don't Use Hashtags

by Cassandra Stone
Participating In Blackout Tuesday? Don't Use Hashtags

Using hashtags in your Blackout Tuesday posts drown out valuable resources for the Black Lives Matter movement

If you’re participating in the Blackout Tuesday movement today on social media, particularly Instagram, please know that using certain hashtags can drown out another movement — the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Blackout Tuesday is a day promoted by activists to observe, mourn, and bring attention and policy change to the U.S. in honor of George Floyd and the police-sanctioned murder that ended his life.

The Blackout Tuesday social media protest was originally organized by two black women working in the music industry: Jamila Thomas from Atlantic Records and Brianna Agyemang from Platoon. They’re using the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused to call on members of the music industry to “take a beat for an honest reflective, and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the black community.”

The movement has spread rapidly on social media with brands and individuals posting a solid black background — but some people are tagging their posts with #BlackLivesMatter.

Here’s why you shouldn’t do that.

Using #BlackLivesMatter and #BLM drowns out communication and valuable resources that are used to share vital information about protests, organization donations, and document police violence.

“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!!”

When you post an image with a hashtag on Twitter or Instagram, it gets automatically added to a searchable feed in chronological order. It’s a common way for people to monitor a situation or interest and search for information. And since people have been including the #BlackLivesMatter tag, a lot of posts about protests across the country have been drowned out.

Many activists and celebrities are calling on people to avoid co-opting the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag to post black square images — just another reminder that our activism cannot be performative in nature, it must be actionable and permanent to have true value.

If you really want to be an ally, you have to do the work. Follow Black people on social media — activists, individuals, authors, reporters, editors, policy makers — and listen to them. Learn. Educate yourself about the Black community and proper allyship. Recognize you’re always going to be a work in progress. It’s doing the work that’s important. And there’s plenty of work to do.