If one were to open up Instagram at this moment, they would find themselves scrolling past black square after black square. Perhaps one may come to the conclusion that Instagram servers are down. But what is occurring is the vocalization of support for the protests demanding justice for the late George Floyd.
The social media movement was meant to put the music industry on pause to highlight the hurt that the country is feeling because of the continued protests against police brutality of minorities. It was meant to unite people in the support of equality, but it has been twisted in ways that are contrary to the original intent of the initiative. The hashtag, #BlackoutTuesday is dominating everyone’s social media feeds as musicians, actors, and regular civilians are expressing their support. Some critique the initiative because it stops the effective sharing of information relating to the protests going on across the country.
Many Instagram users are improperly tagging their posts with the wrong wording. The use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter (as opposed to the designated #BlackoutTuesday) contributed to the effective erasure of posts meant to inform the public about racial injustice occurring today. Previously, one could search #BlackLivesMatter and find out about the latest news or information on how people may become more aware of their privilege. Now, those posts are buried underneath the mass posting of black box posts. A movement with good intentions has ended up hampering the cause it intended to support.
Others criticize the hypocrisy associated with such a movement. The demonstration of support was originally started by music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang with the associated hashtag, #TheShowMustBePaused. After these two made this statement, it was shared by hundreds of huge artists like Ariana Grande, and even hip hop DJ and radio host DJ Ebro. Even Taylor Swift took to social media to express her support; the country-pop star has a complicated history with political speech and has often been accused of refraining from taking a stance on social issues because of the possible business repercussions. One punk rock label, Don Giovanni Records, called out the movement, saying, he has “no interest in supporting major label record executive white guilt day.”
The original aim was to put the music industry in pause, slowing the massive entertainment industry to a dramatic stop to bring attention to the urgency of the cause. Instead, other entertainment agents coopted the movement and rebranded with the hashtag, #BlackOutTuesday. The context and history of the relationship between Black artists and music industry executives makes this especially disconcerting. The musical genres of Jazz, Rock, Blues, Funk, Soul, Disco, Hip-Hop, House, and Techno came from Black communities. In most of these cases, the genres were born in response to and in protest to systematic oppression.