Dark-skinned people around the world shook up social media in a whole new way on March 6 as they participated in a one-day selfie extravaganza, complete with a catchy tagline: #BlackoutDay. This movement, also referred to as Blackout, brought to light the underrepresented beauty of black people, often buried by the Caucasian-dominated Internet and media.
The idea came from a Tumblr blogger with a goal: to refute the “European” standard of beauty popularized by the media, which often discounts black attractiveness. The blogger noticed that his social media feeds were populated with images of Caucasian people and noticeably lacked dark-skinned counterparts.
Subsequently, this blogger posted on Tumblr, suggesting a one-day social media takeover during which blacks posted pictures of themselves throughout the day to indicate their physical presence and aesthetic importance to the rest of the Internet community. His post went viral quickly and #BlackoutDay rose to immense popularity on March 6.
Interestingly, Blackout brought some key players out of their shells to post pictures of themselves: blacks affected by skin conditions such as vitiligo (where the skin loses pigment), mental handicaps, and other disabilities. Many of the participants in the event profusely expressed their gratitude for the movement in allowing them to feel accepted.
Mark Simeon ’15 praises the movement for its ability to boost the confidence of blacks in today’s media climate, saying that “It’s important to promote positive self-images, so especially with the amount of negative stereotypes portrayed by media and current events, #Blackoutday gives people a chance to refute those stereotypes and give blacks more representation.”
Recent racial unrest in locations such as Ferguson constituted an additional impetus for Blackout as blacks who were feeling increasingly marginalized by white people sought out an opportunity to rise in solidarity. Social media provides a unique canvas for such efforts.
Many social media users responded positively to Blackout. Madeleine Kusel ’16 comments, “Overall, I think Blackout was awesome. I got to see a lot of pretty darker-skinned people on the Internet, and it really drew my attention to the lack of pretty black people I see in the media on a regular basis.” Similarly to Kusel, Tumblr and Twitter users lauded the selfies and photographs that surfaced on their feeds, “liking” the posts and commenting with declarations of awe and admiration.
While many conveyed appreciation for #BlackoutDay, others have voiced discontent over the dedication of a day solely to blacks, claiming that undertones of racism exist in this emphasis on the black race. A countermovement dubbed “Whiteout” even came into conception, before #BlackoutDay activists quickly filled the Whiteout hashtags with Blackout images to retaliate.
Controversial or not, Blackout clearly demonstrated the power of a few individuals to spark an influential mass movement to support a cause they believe in; #BlackoutDay acts as the precedent for prospective future campaigns suggested by the Internet community, such as #AsianInvasion (a day for people of Asian descent to post selfies on the Internet). This new method of balancing the status of whites and non-whites clearly makes use of the media’s power to shape society’s views. This is only the beginning of the efforts to bring ethnic diversity to the spotlight.