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The 6 Most Impactful Things I Saw on Social Media in January

The IGTVs, stories, and series that really resonated with me.
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Is it just me, or was January the longest month of quarantine? After an insurrection, an impeachment, an inauguration, a gross public display of racism (followed by a total lack of remorse and accountability), the Georgia runoff election, and GameStop's stock leading the headlines (didn't see that one coming), February arrived and felt like a breath of fresh air. Though I'm hoping for less history-defining news the rest of the year (looking forward to precedented times), the 31 days of January provided some of the most informative and thought-provoking content I'd seen on social media since I started this series, and it was tough to narrow it down to only six.

While I've deemed the following six posts as the most influential to me, this is, of course, a fraction of what's out there. If you have the emotional energy, I'd love for you to share the most powerful post, video, graphic, or photo you've seen in the comments so we can continue to elevate the individuals and communities who have been silenced for far too long. Here are six of the most impactful things I saw on social media in January:

1Amber

Most impactful quote: "This man climbed onto the dais in the United States Senate, threw his fist in the air, and shouted 'Trump won that election!' One time, the police pulled a gun on me for no reason. Just kidding. That wasn't one time. It had happened to me multiple times. I've been harassed by the police one million times for nothing. But these people put on their MAGA hats and guns and broke the law, and punched and pepper-sprayed and fought cops and most of them went home and faced no consequences...I wish I could walk around with the freedom these people enjoy. Just one time."

If you're looking for two minutes that really pack a punch, listen to Amber Ruffin's IGTV. While I've never seen an episode of "The Amber Ruffin Show," this clip of the writer, host, and comedienne may have convinced me that subscribing to Peacock is worth it.

You'd be hard-pressed to dismiss the blatant disparity between the Capitol Police and National Guard’s hands-off approach to the white supremacists' attempted coup on January 6 and the violent acts of police brutality we witnessed throughout the Black Lives Matter protests over the past eight months. There was tear gas at one, selfies at the other. There were tens of thousands of arrests at one, gentle escorts at the other. The comparison was widespread—but what I didn't hear were the commonplace actions Black people take that lead to unnecessary and racist encounters with the police...every single day. Enter Amber.

Hearing the discrepancy between how the police treated the insurrectionists and how they've always treated Amber, just for being Black, turned my stomach. Her dialogue led me to realize all the ways I'm able to move through the world with such ease due to my white privilege, never worried that I'll be discriminated against for the color of my skin. I was comfortably and safely able to sell lemonade on the street as a childcash my first paycheck, take a nap in my university's common roomwait for Kelly at a Starbucks before my interview for the job at cupcakes and cashmere, and attend barbecues with friends at the park without giving them a second thought...all because I'm white. Ruffin managed to display how these not-so-subtle acts of white supremacy regularly criminalize, sexualize, and marginalize Black people in under 120 seconds, and I'm keeping it saved for anyone who claims they've never been treated differently because they're white.

2Michelle

Most impactful quote: "If you limit us to just antiracism, you're failing to see our whole identity. You're failing to see who we are. The point of this whole movement is not just about equality and tearing down white supremacy and ending the systems of oppression. It's also about normalizing our Blackness in everyday spaces, in all spaces."

Back in 2018, Melissa DePino and Michelle Saahene witnessed the arrest of two Black men, whose only "crime" was waiting for a friend while Black in a Starbucks. Melissa recorded the encounter, where you can hear Michelle protesting such a glaring act of racism, posted it on Twitter, and it promptly went viral (remember when Starbucks closed 8,000 locations for anti-bias training? It was in response to Melissa's video).

Since the incident, the women have teamed up to build From Privilege to Progress, which aims to desegregate the public conversation about race and racism. The movement calls on all Americans to join on the path to antiracism by learning, speaking up in their everyday lives and amplifying the voices of people of color. I've learned a lot since following them in June, when I read Melissa's Medium piece on her own reckoning with her whiteness, that happened as a result of the experience in Philly. 

When this IGTV of Michelle appeared in my feed, I stopped to watch, and her words hung in the air for days after my viewing. Her message was so obvious, yet felt necessary to highlight here: The point of the Black Lives Matter movement isn't simply to ensure equity and eliminate the crushing systems of oppression we operate within, but to normalize Blackness in our everyday lives. Reducing Black people to the manners in which they personally serve or benefit us is, in fact, perpetuating the white supremacy we're all claiming to work to tear down...and is, as she states, "very white moderate." It's performative and self-serving. 

If we want to make space for the Black community and honor everyone's humanity, it has to be inclusive of each person's whole identity—all their hobbies, interests, experiences, and preferences, too. Michelle encourages the listeners to amplify Black voices by not only sharing and reposting Black people when they're talking about racism, but also when they're discussing fashion, wellness, books, travel (when we can do that again!), and all the other aspects that make them them.

And on that note, I wanted to share some of the incredible, multifaceted Black women that I've loved following because of the constant joy they bring to my feed: Jessica Manning (I swoon daily over her dreamy kitchen), Peyton Dix (for media/cultural commentary and Kristen Stewart content), Akilah Hughes (my favorite TikTok curator), Dronme Davis (for sex—and lack-of-sex—talk and hilarious AMAs), Vic Styles (for beauty and photography inspo), and so many more.

3Lynae

Most impactful quote: "Black people were in the streets protesting murder, oppression, suppression. A lack of basic human rights and equal protections under the law. And what were you showing your behinds for? To be able to murder Black people...in the name of self defense. To oppress Black people....in the name of white supremacy. To suppress Black votes...in the name of white political power. And to have more protections under the law than Black people...in the name of white comfort."

Lynae's "Parking Lot Pimpin" series is informative, entertaining, brief, and brilliant. They drop on Fridays, and are filled with relevant commentary on the news, larger antiracism themes, and historical events.

This one in particular, in response to the siege at the Capitol, wasn't as brief—and for good reason. She breaks down the white supremacists' true intentions (as quoted above), and points out the hypocrisy, insolence, and depravity of their actions effectively, all with a tongue-in-cheek delivery that I found extremely impressive during a traumatizing week. Once you get to her analogy that America is in an abusive relationship with white supremacy (and that abusers act up when their partner threatens to leave them, hence the insurrection), you won't be able to resist that "Follow" button on her profile.

4Feminista

Most impactful quote: "This is somebody who was enslaved and was actual living currency. I'm not sure what they're trying to say—what's this going to do? ...When it comes to representation, I'll be quite honest, I don't care much about it. Because representation without action, without policy change, without improvement of daily life means nothing to me."

I appreciate when I'm provided with a new and fresh perspective that challenges an opinion I hold, and even more so when it winds up expanding my worldview and changing my outlook on the matter at hand. Shoutout to Feminista Jones for her valuable and stimulating discourse that made me say "well shit, that now seems so obvious."

In 2015, Feminista, a feminist writer, advocate, and activist, wrote a controversial and enlightening article where she argued that though the campaign to put a woman on the $20 bill was well-intentioned, replacing Andrew Jackson's face with Harriet Tubman's would undermine her legacy, which was rooted in upending the capitalistic foundation of America's economy. Recently, this conversation reemerged after the Biden administration stated that they would be attempting to speed up the effort, that initially seemed like an admirable way to pay tribute to her. But after watching Feminista speak on the subject and reading this piece, I've completely changed my mind. 

It now seems so arrogant to assume that having her grace our currency would be the highest honor—a move that's dripping with whiteness and demonstrates how internalized capitalism continues to be so pervasive. Additionally, Feminista mentions that while this could be seen as a win for representation, the majority of support surrounding the decision isn't coming from Black women, who should, in theory, have the most say in the decision. 

This video encouraged me to dig deeper, think more critically, and ask more questions about preconceived notions or previously held beliefs. When it comes to larger social gestures, we should be focusing on systemic, not symbolic, changes.

5Weeze

Most impactful quote: "The reality of the situation is, if we all got cut off and cancelled when we did things that were problematic or harmful, without having the opportunity to restore harm, without having the opportunity to learn and do better, without having the opportunity to fix it, without having the opportunity to use it as a learning moment or growth opportunity, we would literally not have friends. I believe instead in redemption culture."

Weeze doesn't believe in cancel culture–which might seem like a controversial take from an antiracism educator. But she's got good reason: Cancel culture doesn't leave room for each person's human fallibility, doesn't provide the space to learn, grow, and course correct, and because if we were always cancelled for doing something harmful without having the chance to restore that harm and use it as a learning opportunity, community would fail to exist.

In this IGTV, she proceeds to clarify that what she does believe in is redemption culture (and sometimes cancel culture if we're talking about someone who doubles down on protecting and upholding systems of oppression and refuses to commit to repairing harm). This allows for an almost "Choose Your Own Adventure" type of outcome, where the person who has been notified of the harm they caused can take three potential paths:

1. Acknowledgment (whether that be of how their intention and impact weren't aligned, that they haven't done the work to dismantle the systems of oppression we operate within, etc.), an apology, and a commitment to learn and do better in the future...then actually investing in the version of themself that helps restore the harm that occurred and prevents causing more in the future. 

2. Disregarding the harm caused, avoiding responsibility, and leading with apathy, due to their social privilege that protects and benefits them, and allows them to refuse to acknowledge the ways in which they're perpetuating and reproducing systems of oppression.

3. A combination of the previous two. They give you the impression that they're doing the work...but they instead choose to give excuses and be complacent and therefore complicit. For this group, we do what Weeze calls "closing the door, but not locking it."

I could continue to break it down, but I'll allow Weeze's commentary on social responsibility and accountability to speak for itself–and if you have the ability and means to take them, I can't recommend Weeze's courses enough.

6Camaryn
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Most impactful quote: "As an influencer and public figure, you have a rather unspoken responsibility to set a good example and encourage others to do what’s right. By posting pictures from a vacation and tagging the location, you are (possibly unintentionally) telling people it’s okay to travel right now. And it’s really not. I think we all need to take a look at how we are using our platform and make sure we are using it to encourage safe practices."

Has anyone else personally experienced paralysis when you witness something clearly wrong, but then feel incapable of coming up with the right thing to say? As I've watched content creators, friends, and old colleagues irresponsibly travel for leisure throughout the pandemic, a number of emotions arise: envy, frustration, and most of all, a heightened sense of concern. Thankfully, I follow Camaryn, who eliminated the need to draft a thoughtful yet stern message you have to write yourself if you spot that behavior. 

You may be concerned about the destinations, businesses, and people who depend on tourism, which is absolutely valid and worthy of consideration. There are a few other easy ways to support them, like buying gift cards, making donations, or booking future trips, while also ensuring the safety of the locals and anyone else you'd regularly encounter while traveling.

I've provided the message below (which Camaryn generously typed and sent to me!) for your copy-and-pasting pleasure.

Hi {name}! I just wanted to take a moment to open up the conversation about travel right now during the global pandemic— especially to {location}, which is currently a Level 4 destination according to the CDC. This indicates that the destination is currently at a very high level of COVID-19.

On top of that, long-standing systemic health inequities have put minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19. So by traveling to this location, you are directly impacting the locals and putting their lives at risk.

I totally get the desire to travel right now, especially when people think they’re being safe by wearing masks and getting tested beforehand, but there is really no way to guarantee safety when leisurely traveling at this time. And it’s important to note that a negative COVID test is not a guarantee that you do not have the virus, since the sample could have been collected at a time where the infection was not detectable.

All of this is to say that you, as an influencer and public figure, have a rather unspoken responsibility to set a good example and encourage others to do what’s right. By posting pictures from a vacation and tagging the location, you are (possibly unintentionally) telling people it’s okay to travel right now. And it’s really not. I think we all need to take a look at how we are using our platform and make sure we are using it to encourage safe practices.

Those are just my thoughts and I hope you are open to fostering this discussion! It’s really so important for everyone, but specifically people with large followings, to understand our influence and use it responsibly.

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