July 15, 2020
“Instagram has a ‘mute white people’ button in stories,” Pavlich tweeted simply.
According to The Washington Examiner, this button is called the “unbothered sticker,” and it was created by Refinery29, which primarily caters to leftist, Millennial women. The sticker was uploaded to GIPHY, and available for use on Instagram, along with others such as “Pay Black Women,” “Reparation$$$,” and “Afro-Latina Magic.” There have been more than 3 billion views of these uploads.
The concept of “muting white people” comes as the Black Lives Matter protests continue nationwide. As part of this new activist movement, there has been a substantial amount of discussion about White people’s responsibility to step back and let those who are Black, Indigenous, persons of color have space to speak.
Indeed, The Post Millennial notes, “Books like Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility have elevated the perspective of those who would say that the voices of white people should be diminished in the area of critical race theory in favor of the voices of people who are traditionally marginalized.”
As the protests heated up in the wake of George Floyd’s death, social media accounts became the domain of social justice. Calls to support Black Lives Matter appeared across the platforms. On Instagram, there was a day when users were encouraged to place black squares in place of photos to emphasize Black lives.
At that time, “White silence” also became a thing to be decried. “…You’re telling me that you have no hesitation posting a selfie of yourself… or what you’re eating for dinner, and yet you’re telling me that you’re afraid to say something because you might hurt other people’s feelings?” said Broadway star Jelani Alladin of the lack of social justice posting on behalf of white people.
“Or you don’t know what to say? Or you don’t have an audience to reach? Were you thinking those things when you posted the other photos? I don’t think you were.”
Executive Director of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at UC Berkeley Savala Trepczynski said,”White silence is incredibly powerful. It’s not neutral. It acts like a weapon. It’s not even silent. It speaks volumes, right? And the people of colour who are around a silent white person, they hear the silence. And they feel it.
“And they feel what it means, which is: I don’t have your back. Or I don’t care enough to get uncomfortable to speak out. Or you know, despite the fact that black and brown people have been acting up and protesting on our own behalf for centuries, I still don’t quite get it enough to say something,” Trepczynski said.
In New Discourses, James Lindsay wrote that “The world seems completely bent right now on forcing everyone to become an activist whether they want to or not.” Both speaking out is speech and not speaking out is speech. Maybe there should be a “mute everyone” button.
Research contact: @tpostmillennial