Article image from @pettyblackgirl on Twitter.com
"Be loud about the things that are important to you." -Karen Walrond
You've most likely seen #blackouttuesday. While it's important to spread awareness, it's also important to know that posting a black screen takes little to no effort and does nothing. The intentions behind it are good, but the end results yield little to no effectiveness.
stop posting black squares under the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on Instagram. it is intentionally and unintentionally hiding critical information we are using on the ground and online. pic.twitter.com/EIS44aDXXd— y’all don’t read the room 🥴 (@anthoknees) June 2, 2020
Instagram activism is important in the way it spreads awareness, but it is not nearly enough to make a longterm change. The issues that are being protested now-police brutality, oppression of minorities, abuse of power-are issues that are deeply rooted within America. It will take more than just a post on social media to undo the damage that has been done. We are all hurting. We are all scared. While I am not of color, I have friends and loved ones of color and I pray for their safety every single day.
Why We Should Continue Instagram Activism
A lot of people use social media. If you use social media for your activism, they'll see it. They'll be forced to have some awareness of the situation whether why want to or not. Making it harder for people to ignore or deny the truth is a good thing. No person, in good faith or consciousness, should be able to ignore human suffering, especially if we keep showing them how dire the situation truly is. When multitudes of individuals, content creators, brands, and influencers fight for justice, the more society pays attention as a whole. Marketing ploy or not, big names like Wendy's (@wendys) speaking out can make a difference through raising awareness.
Our voice would be nothing without Black culture. Right now, a lot of people are hurting because of blatant racism against Black people. Their voices need to be heard. Period. #BlackLivesMatter— Wendy's (@Wendys) June 3, 2020
Why Instagram Activism Can Be Harmful
While it's good to make people aware using social media, sometimes it can be dangerous as well. Misinformation can be spread like wildfire. Toxic cancel culture runs rampant. Experienced activists posting legitimate resources may be drowned out by trends like #blackouttuesday, which is a nice show of solidarity, but ultimately is just a trend and does nothing for change. As The Atlantic journalist Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) points out, the NFL never cared about black lives until it was trendy to do so.
NFL teams were quick to participate in #BlackOutTuesday and release statements of justice, proving they have selective amnesia just like the rest of America. My latest column for @TheAtlantic https://t.co/6ALNWIhwqo— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) June 3, 2020
What You Can Do
Sign petitions for change. Peacefully protest your local police department and government. Write to your elected representatives in a civil manner and let them know that this is not okay. Share resource lists of places where people can donate, can sign petitions, can go for help, etc. when you see them. Donate if you can. Share the donation links if you cannot. Most of all, keep spreading this when it is no longer "trendy". Change does not come overnight, as much as I wish it would. Be a true ally.
Most importantly, if you go to a protest, do not incite violence. Do not attack anyone, damage property, or do anything to potentially turn peace into war. Your actions reflect on the black community and black organizers/organizations that arrange the protests. If someone seems a little too excited, stay away from them and warn others to do the same; they may be an undercover cop or an extremist sent to rile up the crowd and make a peaceful protest turn vicious. If you are not a person of color, the best thing you can do is stay peaceful and shield our POC friends and family with our white bodies. This is everybody's fight if we want to win this, but it's important to remember that your actions will not harm you so much as the POC you're trying to protect. This thread by a former political campaign manager, Nabs (@nxbrxth), details how to attend protests safely and how to proceed if it turns into a riot. Other Twitter users throw in helpful details too. It's worth a read.
SAFETY TIPS DURING PROTEST: an extensive thread— nabs ❊ ❃ ❋ ❁ (@nxbrxth) May 29, 2020
To everyone out there, trying to stay alive in these frightening times: I love you. You are valid. It will be okay.