This article originally appeared on the blog of Heretic, the magazine of We Are Libertarians.
On Tuesday, June 2, the hashtag #BlackOutTuesday flooded Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Millions of users on these social media platforms changed their profile pictures to simple black squares. In fact, when I logged on to Instagram in the morning, I had to scroll for over a minute before anything but a wall of black appeared in my feed (other than a few ads and promoted posts).
Now, it’s easy to mock those of us who participated in this. After all, how much good can a hashtag and black square posted on your profile really do? I used to feel that way myself, until this past weekend when I attended a local Black Lives Matter protest/march. Before the protesters took to the street itself, most of the several hundreds of us in attendance stood on the sides of one of our city’s busiest roads holding pro-BLM, anti-police brutality signs and raising fists. We drew a lot of reactions of passing drivers – most of them, thankfully, were positive.
The reaction that stays with me the most though was that of a young black boy, probably no more than 10 years old, sitting in the back of his parents car. As they drove by us all, he stared out at the signs, trying to take them all in. He raised his fist in the symbol of power back at us and was smiling as big as I can remember anyone ever smiling in my life. For at least those moments, he knew not only that his life mattered, but that a huge part of his community also knew this, and it obviously meant the world to him and his parents.
That’s the power of solidarity – waving our signs, in some ways we weren’t really doing anything: we weren’t passing criminal justice reform laws, we weren’t getting bad cops fired, we weren’t actively tearing down the structures of systemic racism, etc. But we were simply saying “I see you, I hear you, I’m trying to stand with you”. To those who must often feel like society and its structures are saying the opposite, that does matter. And if something as simple as holding signs of solidarity on the side of the side of the road reminds the downtrodden and oppressed that they are not alone, then I have I hard time believing that blacking out social media couldn’t have done the same thing.
Now of course, simply showing solidarity is not enough. It matters and it helps, but it’s never enough. True solidarity will be lived and acted out, not just shown. Showing solidarity is just the start of meaningful activism, it should never be the end.
If you (like many others) first showed solidarity with the BLM movement on #BlackOutTuesday by posting a black square, good job! Despite what some naysayers might say, it’s never to late to start. But you can’t stop now: keep speaking out. As Ginetta Sagan said, “Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor.” Never go back to being complicit with oppression. Keep standing up. Go to your local protests. Demand structural changes and tear-downs. Donate to bail relief funds. Listen to your black and brown friends and community members. Learn when it is appropriate to shut up and when it is appropriate to speak up, and do so.
…And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly…