black lives matter

Your Black Square Instagram Isn’t Helping

Photo: Instagram

There’s a good chance your Instagram feed today is an endless scroll of black boxes. This phenomenon morphed from a campaign started by two black music-industry veterans, Jamila Thomas, senior director of marketing at Atlantic Records, and Brianna Agyemang, senior artist campaign manager at Apple-owned music talent development firm Platoon. (Agyemang also used to work at Atlantic Records.) “Your black executives, artists, managers, staff, colleagues are drained, traumatized, hurt, scared, and angry,” Thomas wrote on Instagram. “I don’t want to sit on your Zoom calls talking about the black artists who are making you so much money, if you fail to address what’s happening to black people right now.” Together, they started a campaign called #THESHOWMUSTBEPAUSED, asking their colleagues in the music and entertainment space to “pause” work on Tuesday, June 2, in solidarity with the Black community.

That day is today and instead of using this movement to reflect on how Black artists fuel culture and sharing resources support ongoing solidarity protests around the country, #THESHOWMUSTBEPAUSED has been co-opted by well-intentioned Instagrammers clogging up the #BlackLivesMatter feed. If you search the hashtag on the app, you’ll find almost nothing but black square posts. A number of black artists, including Kehlani and Little Nas X, have pointed out how this is ultimately an ineffective way to help, given that Instagram is a vital tool for organizing. A great example is the @justiceforgeorgenyc account, a centralized hub for information on daily protests in New York City. A flood of black squares wastes useful digital space that could be devoted to the real cause.

If you have already posted a black square using the hashtag, simply remove it by tapping the three dots on the upper-right-hand corner of the post. You might have seen information swirling on Instagram that removing the hashtag does not remove the post from the feed. Instagram confirmed to Vulture that if you delete the hashtag, it does remove the post from the feed, though it takes a little time to take effect. “If you edit your post to remove a hashtag, your post will no longer be shown on that hashtag page. In some cases, it may take up to ten minutes for the post to be removed once you edit the post,” a spokesperson said. Alternatively, you could just delete your black square altogether and devote that space to amplifying BIPOC voices, sharing protest information, linking to places to donate money and goods, and urging your followers to do the same.

Your Black Square Instagram Isn’t Helping