TikTok users of color and their allies are using the #blacklivesmatter hashtag on the app for social advocacy, providing tips on how to protest safely, sharing educational resources and speaking out on racial injustice.
The hashtag is trending on TikTok, with more than 4.9 billion views, as waves of protests sweep the nation in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
“TikTok is an outlet for users to express themselves,” Vanessa Pappas, general manager of TikTok US, told CNN in a statement. “This expression is often joyful, but our community is going through a time of particularly deep anguish and outrage, and much of the content on the app this week clearly reflects those experiences. Now more than ever, we stand with the Black community.”
Some creators, including TV personality Ruba Wilson, @rubasworld, have used the app to highlight unseen moments from protests around the country. The video shows protesters singing and dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror” and is captioned, “The protest the news doesn’t want you to see.”
Others have used the platform to speak candidly about race and how being black has affected their lives: in relationships, in school or in encounters with the police.
The wide use of the hashtag comes after creators of color and allies took to TikTok in May to raise awareness around racial injustice both on and off the app.
In honor of Malcom X’s birthday, users changed their profile pictures to the black power symbol and spoke out about discrimination. Some believed that TikTok’s algorithms had sidelined the black community and there was discussion as to whether TikTok supported its black users. In response, TikTokers started the #ImBlackMovement, which helped call attention to the impact made by people of color on the app.
Last week, following the death of Floyd and the protests that followed, it appeared that the hashtags #blacklivesmatter and #georgefloyd were blocked by the platform, receiving zero views.
TikTok said in a statement that this happened because of a technical glitch, which has since been resolved.
TikTok user @original.don took to the app in the wake of Ahmaud Arbery’s death to explain her fear around raising a son.
“If he grows up in the society that we live in today, he might not make it past 20. If he’s trying to go to the convenience store and has a hoodie on, or if he’s just jogging, he might get killed,” she says.
She also posted a clip after watching the video of Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck.
“It breaks my heart that the minute I came out of my mothers womb, I committed a crime. Being black… How many more have to die for us to make change?” text on the video read.
Some users have made clips with tips for how to attend a protest safely.
“Know your rights, research your rights,” Jasmine Bost, @jazbost, says, suggesting that protesters become familiar with the rights they are guaranteed under the First Amendment. “Encourage your friends to seek out those resources and know their rights before they go out to protest,” she says.
One user, @skincarebyhyram, tells protesters to wear an eye covering and a face covering and not to wear make up to protect against tear gas or mace. And another user, @wavyyydavid, recommended that followers “have at least two emergency contacts written down,” “bring a white or black backpack with water and snacks,” “stay hydrated,” “don’t wear contact lenses,” and told white people to “use your white privilege!”
Some creators have compiled lists of books to read this summer about race and racism in its various forms and manifestations. Taylor Cassidy, @taylorcassidyj, suggests “The Help,” “The Hate U Give,” “Stamped” and “Black Enough,” as “books to read this summer about the Black Experience.”
Many TikTokers are using music combined with protest imagery to spread their message. Some, such as comedian Kareem Rahma, @kareemrahma, have posted images and videos of protests set to Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” a song about racism and gun violence in the US.
Other users have uploaded similar imagery to the melody of John Mayer’s “Waiting On The World To Change.” User @livandconnor highlights the lyrics, “It’s hard to make a difference, when we’re standing at a distance,” alluding to social distancing measures.
Some, including Tyler Reed, @tylerreed, have used Macklemore’s “Same Love,” highlighting the phrase, “I might not be the same, but that’s not important, no freedom till we’re equal, damn right I support it.”
Celebrities have also used the hashtag to speak out on the platform.
Lizzo posted a series of places to donate including the George Floyd Memorial Fund, Minnesota Freedom Fund and Black Visions Collective. She asked white people to be actively “anti-racist,” thanked influential people who have spoken up for their “allyship and support,” and encouraged everyone to consider what comes next.
“Protest is the beginning of progress, not the end of it,” she said.
John Legend sang a rendition of his song “Glory” from the ‘“Selma” soundtrack, a movie about the historic civil rights marches in Alabama.
TikTok star and influencer Charli D’Amelio, @charlidamelio, spoke about #blacklivesmatter on her page and shared a document that includes petitions to sign, funds to donate to, resources for education on racism and anti-racism, as well as numbers to text or call in honor of justice for Floyd and other black lives lost. The document also includes a list of supplies protesters should bring to a rally.
“As a person who has been given the platform to be an influencer, I have realized that with that title, I have a job: to inform people on the racial inequalities in the world right now,” said D’Amelio, who has more than 60 million followers.