On the day after the pumpkin declared war and threatened martial law on Black American protesters, music executives from the industry’s most influential companies ordered all operations interrupted. The initiative and hashtag, #TheShowMustPause, created by Atlantic Records’ senior director of marketing, Jamila Thomas, and Platoon’s senior artist campaign manager, Brianna Agyemang, to “disrupt the work week” and, more importantly, “take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community,” scans strangely at a time when getting loud about frustrations in the face of fascism seems to be the current flavor. In a public statement, the two women cited the industry’s centuries-long exploitation of Black art and dared their fellow suits to hold “partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people accountable.”
The intent here is admirable, but the way it hit social media — mysteriously transmogrifying into the #BlackoutTuesday hashtag and convincing users that solidarity is as easy as switching out a selfie — is at best a little off-putting and at worst harmful in the ways it lumped in with #BlackLivesMatter and potentially overshadowed critical conversations and other media on the site. In the post’s pop-radical presentation, lapping platitudes, and low-risk directives, its overt performativity reduces the power of its motivations.
When the CEO of Instagram has to clarify the point of your campaign, you’ve probably already lost.
Don’t get it twisted: Performance is a crucial part of the game. There’s always been a place for drama and theatrics in the movement for Black liberation. Most of it — like the gumboot dance of South Africa’s anti-Apartheid movements, or the ways Black voices deemed Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” the protest song of the Black Lives Matter Movement by chanting it on the streets — is a mix of strategy and interpretation. But the effectiveness of performance is based on its ability to incite more radical ways of being. It is to invite actual dialogue between folks who are frustrated with the way…