Hashtags aren’t just a tool of conversation created by social media savy folks, or mainstream media outlets that are jumping on the bandwagon. Hashtags have become a way for people to come together all over the Internet as a community. It’s how we gather information and conversations from a social point-of-view.
And it seems like the only time black people are of any importance is if their short lives are immortalized through a hashtag. #BlackLivesMatter, #MikeBrown, #BringBackOurGirls. How many do we have to create to prove that our lives matter?
So when Tumblr user Y.R.N created what was a simply a day to celebrate the diversity of blackness with #BlackOutDay.
The first #BlackOutDay took place on March 6th and because of the popularity, it has become a social mainstay on the first Friday of the month. The 2nd #BlackOutDay was April 3rd.
It was amazing to see a sea of beautiful shades of black and brown post selfies all over social media – Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram.
#BlackOutDay was trending and even got some press.
But even with the positivity, like any hashtag, there was a backlash. Remember how quickly white people wanted to use #AllLivesMatter rather than #BlackLivesMatter during the unrest of Ferguson and Eric Garner? People took to social media and created #WhiteOutDay to complain about white people feeling left out in the hashtag. Even other groups of color tried to create their own.
Why was #BlackOutDay important? For numerous reasons: It allowed black people to take back our image and to celebrate the diversity of black people while spreading a positive message. In a world where black lives only matter once we’re brutally killed, why can’t we celebrate our lives?
#BlackOutDay is crucial for black women. You Google black women and what do you get?
Though #BlackOutDay wasn’t just for black women, it allowed women of all shades to express themselves. And in a world where being a black woman can be a complex struggle, it was nice to have a fun hashtag.
As a social media writer, I question every day the importance of hashtags as a way to champion awareness and change. It’s been a whole year since Boko Haram kidnapped the Nigerian school girls and we all supported the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. What change has that brought? This was such an ‘important’ social campaign, and some ask why black women need a movement that focuses on only our appearance? It seems completely vain and shallow.
What started off as a simple concept on Tumblr has now become a movement with it’s own website. Now once a month black people over the world we’ll be able to take part in what essentially is just an excuse to post a cute selfie. Vain, shallow, first world problems…call it what you want. Last week a video of a black man being shot and killed by the police surfaced and we all heard of #WalterScott by now. To break from the depressing news, a fun hashtag once a month doesn’t hurt. Black people deserve some lightheartedness.
In the great lexicon of popular language…Can I live?