On Tuesday Instagram went dark. Instead of the usual cascade of evocative images our feeds were filled with plain black squares.
The purpose of Blackout Tuesday was to raise awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has risen to greater prominence following the brutal murder of George Floyd by a group of police officers in Minneapolis.
Organisers Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas stated that it should be “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” through “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.”
Brands, celebrities and many millions of ordinary people took part online, while many TV and radio stations joined in by pausing their broadcasts.
“I am a mother to black boys so when I saw that image of George Floyd I saw my brother, I saw my father, I saw my son,” said ITV presenter Alison Hammond.
“It hurt me to the pit of my stomach to think that this is 2020 and we are seeing that. Let’s be honest. This has been going on for ever.”
In a poignant move MTV displayed a black screen with the words “I can’t breath” for eight minutes and forty-six seconds – the length of time it took for George Floyd to suffocate while a police officer knelt down on his neck.
Apple posted a message to the home page of its popular Music app. “In steadfast support of Black voices that define music, creativity, and culture, we use ours,” the statement read.
“This moment calls upon us all to speak and act against racism and injustice of all kinds. We stand in solidarity with the Black communities everywhere.”
Signalling support for a cause is of course only a small and superficial gesture.
The important work will be to follow through with tangible actions that proactively start to unpick the systemic racism in our society.
“People are angry for a reason,” explains Spike Lee. “It’s not like you’re just born angry. You’re angry because you live every day in this world where the system is not set up for you to win.”