Black Squares and Performative Activism

Yesterday was #BlackOutTuesday. For those who don’t know, #BlackOutTuesday is a social media trend that was started by two black women in the music industry that encouraged people to spend the day reflecting on ways to support the black community. It was originally under the #TheShowMustBePaused hashtag, but people quickly started using the BlackLivesMatter hashtag, which drowned out the spread of useful information. What started as a movement to promote awareness and self-reflection ended as an opportunity for many to become performative allies.

I saw many of my peers who hadn’t posted a single thing about the murder of George Floyd or the unchecked racism and oppression in America, suddenly find the courage to speak out and post a Black square and a hashtag. Posting a black square to raise awareness for the injustice that taints American history is only beneficial, if it is followed by actions. Reflect on the ways privilege paints your life, ask yourself how many times you have noticed someone do or say something racist and called them out. If you hadn’t spoken out before this, ask yourself why. Use whatever platform you have to amplify black voices, have uncomfortable conversations, support black owned businesses, and take action. As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  If you stay silent you are choosing to sit in your privilege. For all my peers that embrace black culture, have black friends, and support Black Lives Matter, what will you do when the protests are over, when Instagram posts showing days at the beach drown out the countless instances of injustices in America? How will you affect change? America is built and functions on systems designed to oppress and exploit black lives. We have to dismantle it.