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Ottawa business faces backlash after posts on Blackout Tuesday
OTTAWA -- Expressing outrage over racism can be a complicated and sometimes divisive action. One Ottawa business that tried to share its opinion on social media this week found out exactly how hard that can be.
Blackout Tuesday is a collective action to protest racism and police brutality. The action, originally organized within the music industry in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Earlier this week, Art-Is-In Bakery, a popular eatery in Ottawa, posted a ‘black-tile’ for #BlackoutTuesday on its Instagram page. Stephanie Mathieson owns the business, along with her husband,
“We’re a family run business, and IG is run by a few members of this family, I posted the black square.”
Then, according to Mathieson, another family member created a promotional post - celebrating the stores re-opening; something that you are not supposed to do once you post a “black-tile” on social media; creating a backlash.
“Unfortunate that we hurt people along the way, and we are terribly, very sorry about this… We made a mistake, but our heart was at the right place; we deeply care what happened, that’s why we posted the black square in the first place.”
Comments then flooded the Art-Is-In Bakery Instagram account. Makda Kidane used to shop at Art-Is-In and she left comments, which were deleted. According to her, she was then blocked by Art-Is-In.
“We put money in your pocket, we support your business; we share this business with other people when I have my friends coming in from out of town, it’s an establishment that I frequent with them, and it was disappointing that they don’t see the value in our dollar or our voice.”
Kidane does not think the use of the “black-tile” is appropriate, if used along side a marketing campaign,
“The plight of black people is not a trend; it is our life, it is our reality; and, we need allies and we don’t need people to just follow a trend.”
Yodit Haile also saw the post, comments, and then the deletion.
“What they did was wrong; it’s clear that they used the Black Lives Matter movement for their own benefit, for their own advertising, and that’s not what this movement is about.”
Art-Is-In deleted the post, now making their Instagram page private.
SO HOW SHOULD BUSINESSES USE THE BLACK TILE?
“There’s no appropriate way to use that,” says Boulou Ebanda de B'béri, Professor of Media, Communication, and Cultural Studies at the University of Ottawa’s Department of Communication, whose areas of expertise include history, culture, and racism in Canada.
“When some businesses, particularly white businesses - white owned businesses are trying to all of a sudden become black, that is problematic; there is not an appropriate way to recycle pain.”
He says that businesses should participate more with their actions - who they hire, and who they employ in management positions.
As for Art-Is-In?
Mathieson says, “All our intention by posting this black square were good; it came from a concerned and caring place.”