Why your black square is not enough

Being silent is siding with the oppressor– we have heard this phrase over and over. Its importance can not be emphasized enough. Refusing to post, refusing to have uncomfortable conversations is equal to refusing to give up comfort. The fear of “getting political” is preventing a full understanding of the black community’s plight. Ignoring the actions that you can take and preferring to remain neutral is at its core being complicit in the face of racism and systematic oppression which leads to deadly consequences.

In an age where our social media is our most relevant platform, especially when being present physically is difficult because of a pandemic, posting about the Black Lives Matter movement is the closest many people can get to protesting and resisting. It is not only that, but a refusal to post is inherently racist. Publicity and national attention are powerful ways of keeping governments and law enforcement accountable for their actions. If videos of police brutality had not gone as viral as they had, it is unlikely they would be talked about on such a national scale, and it is even more unlikely the murderers would be brought to justice.

Sharing resources, educating others and actively supporting the cause through social media are also important ways to show solidarity and tangibly lift up the black community. From sharing black owned businesses to boosting organizations that work to fight oppression daily, all the way to calling out your racist followers, your humble instagram account is a powerful platform.

Of course, there is an exception to this.

On June 2nd, my Instagram feed was nothing but black squares. Taking a look at the hashtags, I noticed the Black Lives Matter tags were filled with unproductive black squares, potentially blocking out useful information. While this movement may have started in the right place, the message was lost somewhere along the way, and it became a social media trend that did nothing to provide real traction to the movement.

As of 8:15 PM on June 3rd, the #blackouttuesday had accrued 28.7M posts while the change.org petition “Justice for George Floyd had 14.5M signatures. As various tweets have pointed out, this disparity between the number of posts versus the amount of tangible support is very telling of just how performative this trend was.

It goes without saying that posting a hashtag without taking any other action is empty and hollow. But besides that, it is genuinely dangerous. Flooding a hashtag used by the BLM movement to find pertinent information harms the people that need it most. It drowns out petition links, protest information, pro bono representation offers, organizations in need of donation and the black voices themselves that the trend was supposed to amplify.

Understand the power that your social media holds, consider your intentions as well as your impacts before you post and continue to back up your social media activism with real action — whether that be signing petitions, contacting representatives, donating money, fundraising, spreading resources or attending protests.

Although the four cops behind George Floyd’s murder have been charged, they have yet to be convicted. The fight is far from over. I urge you all to keep using your platforms productively and respectfully.

Geethika Kataru is a sophomore majoring in political science and motion pictures.