The history of media and entertainment within the United States is both long and complex. Consistent representations of races, gender, and religions in positive and negative roles have created a society where individuals are unfairly judged prior to truly knowing their stories. Forms of discrimination and prejudice then develop and are associated with various races, gender, and religions. With this problem of representation now established it is important to consider a topic with two opposing angles. 1) Is the media depicting how society functions? 2) Or are the acts within our everyday lives mirroring what we see and hear from entertainment? Perhaps your perspective of whether or not our various forms of media and entertainment are accurate depends on how you have been socialized. A point of particular focus is how black lives are represented in the media. For too long black people have been criminally underrepresented. For too long the majority of representation of black people has been negative. The root causes of these problems date back hundreds of years ago, as a society we have not done enough to address these issues. Just as the media has acted to perpetuate these problems, the public has used the same tools available to create forms of activism intended to tackle these issues. One form of this media representation is Black Out Day.
Herman Gray’s Subjected to Recognition is an article which focuses on the representation of certain groups within the media. He focuses on the Black Community and how this marginalized group has been subjected to the powers of the media. He notes that even an increase in representation of Black people in the media would not assist in changing the stereotypes and prejudices that are present. Instead, the only real solution is to change the narratives of the Black community that are being displayed. To assist this media representation, Black Out Day was born.
In recent years, social media has lent a hand in the process of social organization with a common cause of uniting those who share a common passion and bringing needed issues to light. Things can spread very quickly through the internet because of the access that many people now have to others in their community through social media. Coverage of issues that were once ignored now have greater opportunity to be brought to the public’s attention. Black Out Day was an event that stemmed from social media. The idea started in February, with the intention of black individuals posting selfies through their social media networks with the hashtag blackoutday and blacklivesmatter. According to The Washington Post the idea for Black Out Day started on tumblr to bring a sense of community to those who participated, as well as acknowledged that representation of black people in the media needs to change.
Blackfeministing talks about the objective of this movement and how it was founded with the intention to promote self-confidence, body positivity, unity, creating opposition to the oppression dealt with from POC, and with the understanding that everyday is a celebration of black beauty and black individuality. For more information, youtuber Chescaleigh did a phenomenal job of explaining why we need Black Out Day in her video.
Authors: Michael Burgos and Elizabeth Nance