Why people are posting black squares on social media today

Why people are posting black squares on social media today

On Tuesday, instead of selfies, memes and images of protests over the death of George Floyd filling your Instagram feed, you might notice people posting a simple black square along with the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused.

It's part of a movement called Blackout Tuesday, which was created by two black women music executives, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang.

"In response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other Black citizens at the hands of the police, #TheShowMustBePaused is an initiative created ... in observance of the long-standing racism and inequality that exists from the boardroom to the boulevard," a statement on the movement's website explains. "We will not continue to conduct business as usual without regard for Black lives."

It added that the deliberate choice of Tuesday, June 2, "intentionally (disrupts) the work week. Monday suggests a long weekend and we can't wait until Friday for change. It is a day to take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community."

The music industry is at the center of the movement, Thomas and Agyemang continued, because it's "profited predominantly from Black art."

They concluded, "This is not just a 24-hour initiative. We are and will be in this fight for the long haul. We are tired and can't change things along."

To participate, the founders recommended that people who've been "impacted by recent events ... take a break — there is a lot going on and sometimes we all just need a minute. Take that minute."

They also suggested donating to relevant causes and education yourself with anti-racism resources.

Major voices in the music industry have begun spreading the message. Spotify is adding to select playlists an 8-minute, 46-second track of silence, the amount of time that a Minneapolis police officer placed his knee on George Floyd's neck. Apple is directing all users of its radio feature to one station that's only streaming black artists.

Sony Music also posted on social media that it is participating, as have many artists, from Rihanna to the Foo Fighters and the Rolling Stones.

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A post shared by Live Nation Concerts (@livenation) on Jun 1, 2020 at 1:18pm PDT

The music has spread far beyond the music industry, however. The hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused has more than 280,000 posts associated with it on Instagram, and #BlackoutTuesday has garnered more than 6 million.

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A post shared by Al Roker (@alroker) on Jun 2, 2020 at 4:05am PDT

Today's Al Roker posted a black square on his account this morning and simply captioned it, "#blackouttuesday." Jennifer Garner did the same with a caption that reads, "#blacklivesmatter." Bravo's Andy Cohen took the exact same approach as Al.

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A post shared by Jennifer Garner (@jennifer.garner) on Jun 1, 2020 at 11:25pm PDT

But the Blackout Tuesday movement isn't without controversy. Many social media users have pointed out that flooding the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag with empty black squares prevents people from accessing important information about the group and can silence African American voices on these platforms.

Instead, supporters of Blackout Tuesday are encouraging participants to use the hashtags #TheShowMustBePaused, as the founders originally specified, and #BlackoutTuesday.

George Floyd died on May 25 after a cellphone video from a bystander captured him being arrested by Minneapolis police and an officer kneeling on his neck for almost 9 minutes. The officer in question, Derek Chauvin, was later charged and the four officers involved in the incident were fired. Since then, protests, some peaceful and some violent, have continued to spread, highlighting racial tensions across the country.

Originally published