Sunnier Side Of The Home Office – June 10, 2020

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"Protest is not the end of progress, it is the beginning." 

- Lizzo

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.

From Lip-Syncing to Social Justice
By: Ben Thomas

The pandemic and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery (amongst many others) have been the catalyst for a shift in how people are using social media. 

The confluence of the generation-defining events of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement has turned TikTok into something no one could’ve predicted: a platform for racial justice activism with a huge, active audience. Dance moves and lip-syncing have taken a back seat as TikTokers speak out, rally and organize, and for many of the app's younger users, it might be the first time they’ve been made acutely aware of racial injustice and police brutality.

However, TikTok’s risen to prominence with the Black Lives Matter movement hasn’t been without controversy. Black creators have argued that TikTok was censoring their content and other posts related to Black Lives Matter, effectively suppressing their voices. And while TikTok acknowledged and apologized for what they called a “technical glitch”, users were more skeptical, leading to a day of protest “that brings awareness to the racism on TikTok”.

Starting From The Top
By: Jiho Chung

Last week, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian officially resigned from its board urging for a black candidate to fill his former position; with aim to prioritize diversification starting with a prominent capacity. The motivation? His and Serena Williams’ 2 year-old black daughter, Alexis Olympia, with whom he was concerned how her father’s legacy was to be seen.

Even now, the tech industry has been stunted with very little progress with black and Hispanic representation, making up less than 9% of the tech workforce at Facebook, Google, and Microsoft in 2019. Ohanian hopes to disrupt the scene starting from the top where in 2018, 16.1% of board seats in Fortune 500 companies were held by non-white individuals. Reddit was no exception when, prior to last week, the board was consisted of four white men and one woman.

Today, Michael Siebel replaces Ohanian’s seat as that black board member, who brings a wealth of experience including co-founding Twitch. Reddit has also agreed to honor Ohanian’s request to change its content policy to “explicitly address hate” especially when Reddit CEO Steve Huffman was under heavy scrutiny in 2018 for permitting racist threads from reddit communities like Trump-centric r/The_Donald to continue without much site action. 

Time can only tell how Reddit will fare as a key example of change and progress.