If you're a non-Black ally, you're well aware that your online presence can carry quite a bit of power. Even doing nothing at all exerts power. And it's much easier to do harm than to do good, even if it feels like your voice & resources get lost in the overwhelming wash of online activity.
But your small, granular contributions to Black lives, Black justice, and Black safety are important to make when there's so much at stake. Today across the world, people are joining in an online #BlackoutTuesday for the safety, dignity, and survival of Black people in America. Started by music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang as a way for the music industry to demonstrate its solidarity and support for Black activists, it has become far more widespread. People across the globe are taking to social media, and Instagram in particular, to post plain black images with their own messages. The hashtag #BlackoutTuesday has already been used over 25 million times on Instagram alone, and the day is far from over – clearly, it's become a powerful online movement.
But there's a lot to be aware of, and a lot of care you should to take in order to contribute positively. Here's what you should and shouldn't do.
Articles and resources to check out:
Blackout Tuesday posts hide info with BLM hashtags
Why Blackout Tuesday might do more harm than good
What you shouldn't do:
1. Don't use important, informational hashtags for personal posts.
This is a big issue with allyship to major online causes, in general. The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, for example, is as important as ever, but it's primarily meant to be used for vital news & on-the-ground protest updates.
If you're making a personal post about your own advocacy, use other hashtags – or feel free to use none whatsoever. Your greatest impact will be on your own followers and friends, who will see your post regardless.
2. Don't just post black squares
Especially on Twitter an Instagram, where hashtags are king and gathering information is often done in Explore pages, it's important not to drown out news and information with merely cosmetic trends.
As you can see, important hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter can be quite literally blacked out by social media trends. Make sure you don't misuse social media tools and suppress valuable information – for your own posts, try to reach your network of followers as effectively as you can, without overtaking the resources people use to stay on top of important events.
3. Don't make demands of Black people
This is something to keep in mind in every action you take to act as an ally. Centering Black voices is incredibly important, but it's equally crucial not to make demands of the Black people in your network.
It may seem appropriate to reach out to those you know are most affected and ask for their advice or words. Of course, it's important to be there for the people you know & care about, and offering your support is important. But personal requests and solicitations, even if they're well-intentioned, can have the effect of demanding time and emotional energy in a time when these things can be personally costly. Plenty of Black voices are speaking up and fighting already – read, learn, and amplify what is already there.
4. Don't only speak to people you agree with
You might think you live in a "bubble," but you don't. There will always be people in your network who disagree with you. It's most important that your messages reach the timelines of people who could be doing more to help and could benefit from more information and perspective.
Find the social media platform where you have the widest reach and post there. It may lead to some discomfort, but this discomfort is constructive, and you should lean into it.
5. Don't equivocate
Many allies are tempted to quell the disputes around them by writing convoluted, ambiguous statements online. If you're advocating for something, you should put the forcefulness of your belief into what you're saying.
Avoid writing "I know that [...] But at the same time, [...]." Politicians do this more than anyone, and it's done nothing but continue inaction, danger, death, and nearly unchecked state-sanctioned violence for years. Say what you believe.
What you should do:
1. Add messages and links
If you're participating in #BlackoutTuesday, don't settle for a new profile picture, profile frame, or cover photo. Make sure you're putting effort into a statement of advocacy for vulnerable people so the people in your network hear the weight of your belief.
Additionally, you should provide links to valuable resources for further information, advocacy, and donation locations. If people know that you're putting your money where your mouth is, they'll take your words more seriously.
2. Donate first
Before you post, donate to the causes that you believe do the best work for Black people's safety and justice. No matter how much you're able to contribute, your donations are almost certainly more impactful than your posts.
3. Amplify Black voices
Whatever you post or contribute, you should always additionally center and amplify the voices of Black leaders fighting for justice and safety. As non-Black allies, our advocacy is auxiliary.
A simple social media shoutout can do a lot to increase the reach of progressive Black advocacy. I strongly recommend following Benjamin Dixon, Bree Newsome Bass, and Raquel Willis as leaders to listen to.