Beyond a Black Square
By: Jessica Bedussi
Last Tuesday, black squares flooded social media for #BlackoutTuesday. The campaign was an off-shoot of the music industry #TheShowMustBePaused meant to interrupt “business as usual” and instead discuss ways to support the Black community. Brands and users co-opted the initiative and in doing so lost the core intent. What was meant to be a day that encouraged non-POC to stop posting their typical social content and instead share resources and get involved in the Black Lives Matter Movement turned into a passive action for over 29M people.
The campaign went beyond passivity to harm as the black squares took over the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag burying critical resources and information. Overall, there was a collective cry for action from brands, influencers, and everyday people to do more than take up space. Users urged these accounts to use their massive platforms to educate and share space with Black creators, influencers, and organizations.
Today, more than 50 celebrities (Kourtney Kardashian, Megan Rapinoe, Julia Roberts) will give their platform over to Black creators (Bozoma Saint John, Fresco Steez, Kahlana Barfield Brown, with #ShareTheMicNow. According to social posts, the intention of the campaign is to “magnify Black women and the important work that we are doing in order to catalyze the change that will only come when we truly hear each other’s voices.”
Brands like Sephora follow suit by extending their action beyond donations to creating content, hosting live panels, and educating their more than 20M followers with organizations like the National Black Justice Coalition. Fenty Beauty also called on its audience to share their favorite Black creators of all identities and experiences to be featured on their channels.
While it’s great to see non-POC influential people and brands post more than black boxes, there’s a fine line between offering a space for Black creators and putting the emotional labor of educating followers on the BIPOC experience. Additionally, these accounts must place an emphasis on creating strategies for long term inclusivity and education, not just topical social campaigns.