Scrolling one’s Instagram feed got progressively darker on Tuesday.
Social media in the past week as been increasingly filled with powerful, thumb-stopping images from the US protests against institutionalised racism.
That anger and desire for change has spread to Australia, forcing us to turn an eye to and acknowledge our own institutionalised racism against our First Nations people.
As such, a social media movement that started in the US came to our shores, too. (And promptly disappeared – you’ll see why shortly.)
It started in the US music industry, with former Atlantic Records employee Brianna Agyemang posting the below image.
She called it ‘music industry black out Tuesday’, with the hashtag #theshowmustbepaused, launching a website of the same name.
Artists and record labels sat up and took notice, pledging to stop work, make donations, and spread the word to their fans.
Spotify added eight minutes and 46 seconds of poignant silence to some playlists, signifying the time a police officer’s knee pressed on the neck of George Floyd until he died.
Other music TV channels shut down: Nothing but silence and darkness.
It flowed quickly to Australia, morphing along the way.
Soon enough, the movement was represented by a solo black square.
It appeared outside of the music industry, spreading to actors and creatives – it was a rallying motion to black out social media in general.
Many of the squares had hashtags attached – #BlackLivesMatter was commonplace at first.
It was quickly pointed out this hashtag had its own groundswell: It was a rallying point for the heart of the protests.
Re-posting black squares with the same hashtag was drowning out the images of police brutality, missing persons and fundraisers from inside the unrest of the US.
It was an easy way for people to show their support – too easy, some feared. The click-tivism that’s come to define social media users was actually doing more harm than good.
Instead, advocates urged those who’d posted the square to take it down, and replace it with information; links to reading material, donation pages or events.
View this post on Instagram
Uncertainty is not an excuse for complacency. It’s not enough to be “not racist”. Be actively anti-racist. Read. Educate. Protest. Donate money. Donate time. — We posted a black square, great. Now let’s get to work. Suggestions in previous post. — Image: @irlrubyph
A post shared by Benjamin Law (@mrbenjaminlaw) on
Don’t just post and think that’s enough, is the message: Take the time to educate yourself, your fellows and to contribute to change through donations to bail funds for protesters in the US, or Indigenous charities here in Australia.
Thousands of Australians are expected to turn out for solidarity protests and marches in capital cities across the country on Saturday