Opinion: Black Lives Matter isn’t a social media trend, people are getting killed

If you’re only posting a black square on your Instagram, your performative activism is showing.


Illustration by Israel Fontoura.

Israel Fontoura, Managing Editor

In the past week, social media has been flooded with posts surrounding George Floyd’s murder but every time Black Americans raise awareness of another unjustified act of police brutality, people don’t know how to listen.

Yesterday, there was a social media blackout where on Instagram, users overwhelmed the algorithm with black squares to show solidarity but the posts are as empty as some users intent behind it. 

Sure, it’s easy to post a black square or share an inspirational quote on your Instagram story, but too many people are dying by the hands of systemic racism for you to be lazy. We can’t let people off the hook for accompanying one post with a hashtag.

In fact, the official Justice for George Floyd petition has garnered 11.7 million signatures but the #blackouttuesday tag has 23.3 million posts. 

However, the initiative “Blackout Tuesday” wasn’t intended to be an Instagram trend.

Created by music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, the two urged music industry leaders to pause their operations for a day “in observance of the long-standing racism and inequality that exists from the boardroom to the boulevard,” according to their website.

Soon, individuals and businesses who supported the initiative caught on and adapted it.

They captioned their posts with #blacklivesmatter but as a result, it drowned out users’ feeds of resources and petitions and gave people an easy way out for accountability. 

People have used online platforms to spread awareness of the issue and more recently, the state of protests but then there’s another side of the digital sphere, where activism is a self-serving spectacle meant to boost one’s likes, shares and following.

Americans, mainly white, believe politics is something to opt-in or out of and even worse— a trend. Like clockwork, whenever an unarmed Black American is murdered, White Americans have an Eat, Pray, Love moment. 

A common denominator of white guilt in times like these are any social media posts that begin with “I’ve been thinking a lot about…” or “I’ve been trying to process…” but you’ve had enough time to think–– you need to act. 

Whatever your privilege compels you to say, I guarantee you that someone black has said it before. Instead, use your platform to take meaningful action.

The same goes for public figures and companies as well. If they aren’t using their platform their statements are as good as empty. 

Although, not everyone is ready to support the movement.

In 2013, three black women founded the Black Lives Matter movement, centered around violence and systemic racism against Black Americans but every time those three words start trending again, there’s questionable retaliation. 

Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter reappear immediately as people argue against the movement. The case for Blue Lives Matter is to bring attention to cops who put their lives out on the line. However, at the end of the day, you can take off your uniform and badge, but Black American’s can’t hide their skin color. 

All Lives Matter appeals to the pathos of a unified society where race doesn’t matter, but this notion is pure ignorance. Black Americans are disproportionately incarcerated, killed, and assaulted compared to any race in the U.S. 

And it’s going to keep happening until we speak up and dismantle the system. 

To emphasize that black lives do matter, the first thing you should do is not speak over them. Share posts by black public figures, organizations, and activists. 

Now is not the time for you to ponder in silence, and in the words of Ellie Weisel, author and Holocaust survivor, that still rings true: Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.”

A blank Instagram is not going to do anything. Sign a petition, donate, phone bank, protest, speak up, and just do something.

Saying “Black people, I see you…” doesn’t actually help them. Here’s what does:


Israel Fontoura is the managing editor for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email him at [email protected]