I googled what gift you’re supposed to give for a four month anniversary. Google essentially called me a love sick fool and told me to pull myself together. So I went for the next best thing, 4 years. Here in the UK, married couples traditionally exchange silk gifts after 1460 days of married bliss. Looks like we owe #BlackOutTuesday a silky negligee as today, marks 4 months since our timelines were ceremoniously filled with black squares and white guilt. It really was a surreal day scrolling through Instagram and not seeing our usual banal throwbacks and braggadocious holiday snaps. Instead our screens resembled a literal Black Mirror as our friends, followers and fave celebs got busy posting these well meaning little squares. Captions varied from a simple #BlackOutTuesday to variations on my personal favourite, the oh so trite ‘taking this time to learn and listen.’ And I suppose my dilemma is woven in to the premise of this caption. If you were new to this whole racism game, was 24 hours really enough time for you to even scratch the surface of allyship?
I recently saw a tweet that said: ‘there’s nothing heroic about jumping on top of a pile on’ and that is exactly what I’d be doing right now if I sat up here on my perfectly groomed high horse denouncing every person that posted a black square on 2nd June 2020. Firstly because it’s been said a thousand times already and secondly because I posted a black square! I would be the pot calling the kettle (a) black (square). Having said that, there is value in hindsight.
This never seen before form of mass social media activism was the brainchild of two exceptionally talented black woman at Atlantic Records: Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas. In the midst of what has been widely regarded as an emotionally and physically draining year they decided to go above and beyond for the cause and insist that #TheShowMustBePaused. I cannot scream loud enough that not a single word of my criticism is aimed at them.
I appreciate that my newsfeed has been turned in to a cosy little echo chamber ever since I sold my soul to the data devil (I feel like I should have managed my cookies better over the years and read a few more T&Cs but, life is for the living) but if the shear amount of black squares I saw on my timeline reflected real action, real commitment to change and real education then I do believe we could be getting somewhere as a society. As lovely as the post was from my white counterparts, to borrow from our infamously racist suffragette sisters, we need deeds not words . Action, not captions.
It has been 4 months since #BlackOutTuesday what has changed?Tweet
Black Out Tuesday was never pitched as the *thing* that would solve racism but how amazing would it have been if it could have symbolised the starting line to marathon towards a more equal society? Maybe in 20 years time, when cars fly, Coronavirus seems as ancient as the Black Plague and racism no longer exists we will say it was the starting point. But right now it can be hard to feel that way. Let’s look just a handful of incidents that have occurred since we posted our squares.
- 11 days after #BOT (13th June) hundreds of far right ragers descended on the capital slurring something about British pride and Winston Churchill in between belches and swigs of Fosters.
- 65 days after #BOT (6th August) the Crown Prosecution Service ruled against Belly Mujinga’s death being considered as a homicide.
- 114 days after #BOT (24th august) Jacob Blake was left paralysed (shackled to a hospital bed) after being shot in the back seven times by police in Wisconsin.
- 117 days after #BOT (27th August) Kyle Rittenhouse a 17 year old white kid killed two and injured one at a BLM protest with an assault rifle. He goes home to sleep in his own bed and has since had $500k raised for him by crowdfunding.
- 129 days after #BOT (8th September) in response to footballer Marcus Rashford campaigning against the starvation of under privileged children in this country, politician David Vance tweets horrifically dangerous stereotypes about black men and asks Rashford ‘have you ever met your father?’
- 145 days after #BOT (24th September) no criminal charges are filed against Breonna Taylor’s killers.
- Finally just this week 29th September 150 days after #BOT neither Trump nor Biden firmly renounce white supremacy during the presidential candidate debate.
When you lay it all out on the table, the picture is bleak at best and soul destroying at worst. But perhaps it is enough to galvanise some who posted their square on 2nd June, read three aesthetically pleasing Instagram posts and then switched back to business as usual on 3rd June. The fight against racism and injustice did not start on #BlackOutTuesday and it certainly did not end there. More has to be done.