July was a complicated month–I saw a portion of my Instagram feed backslide into fun, carefree, lifestyle content (our privilege is showing), and it added more layers to my existing love-hate relationship with social media. It felt less overwhelming to be on the platform than it did in June, but in a way, I missed the information overload. Then I realized: The tidal waves of infographics, video series, and lessons shared from educators, activists, and friends are still out there–you just have to be following the right people to unearth them.
Discovering new accounts and breaking up the homogeneity of scrolling has become the highlight of my past few weeks. Instagram can be a tool for activism, but think of it as the side dish to your main course–actual action. The small act of following, engaging with, and sharing the work of BIPOC content creators is performative if it isn't backed up by real, tangible action outside the app. So sign a petition, keep protesting, call your representatives, and make sure you're registered to vote.
As we enter August, I feel conflicted viewing others' (and creating my own) posts and stories (#challengeaccepted, and the conflicting theories around its genesis surely didn't help), but remain committed to growing, evolving, and amplifying marginalized voices.
While I've deemed the following seven 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 below so we can continue to elevate the individuals and communities who have been silenced for far too long. Here are seven of the most impactful things I saw on social media this month:
Trigger warning: One recommendation below (#1) contains information about sexual assault (but does not contain graphic descriptions) and may be disturbing for survivors.
Most impactful quote: "Men who decide to wait until women are talking about their experiences to now suddenly talk about men experiencing sexual assault and men being abused don't actually give a shit about men being sexually abused or about men being assaulted. All they care about is silencing women. It's this pathological need to have men centered in all spaces and all conversations...All you're trying to do is divert attention away from women being heroic and sharing their experiences and sharing their stories and you're trying to dilute the narrative by talking about you. Women and femmes are allowed to have spaces that are only talking about women and femmes. We don't actually need to be considering the experiences and the opinions and the feelings of men all the time...I am not at all saying that men do not experience trauma...but if you are waiting to talk about that until a woman is sharing her experience, then your misogyny is so deep that you are not even seeing it."
Dronme creates the kind of content I always look forward to in my feed and stories. She's a badass, incredibly inspiring, and a delightful follow, who shares BTS from photoshoots as a model, snippets of living with her (hilarious) parents, and talks about everything from boobs to body positivity to sexual assault. I learn something new from her nearly every day, and she's also become a personal role model for what accountability looks like, as she's constantly checking herself, owning up to mishaps, and correcting them.
But this video in particular stuck with me. It's worth watching all 10 minutes as she explains, frustratedly, that whenever she has addressed sexual assault on Instagram, men flood her DMs—but not to thank her for bravely telling her story, empathize with her pain, or to offer support. Instead, they attempt to elbow their way into the conversation, stating that men are also victims of abuse and assault. Men who, before that day, have never publicly supported or spoken about male victims, and it rightfully infuriates her. This glaring form of patriarchy and gaslighting is extremely harmful and only seeks to divert the narrative away from women, not advocate for male survivors.
While she mainly addresses male-female power dynamics, it's highly applicable to the current cultural conversation we're having (and she links the two later in the IGTV). I couldn't help but see the correlation to the "All Lives Matter" retort (which only aims to delegitimize the call for Black lives to also matter) and how many white people, and even I, find ways to victimize ourselves (I recognized that for most of my life, I used my non-racial identities as a woman and a Jew to absolve myself of responsibility in dismantling systems of oppression). Finding a way to say "I'm the victim, too!" is easy; reckoning with the fact that you're a part of the problem and taking accountability isn't.
I saved it early in July, and her voice continues to pop up as I witness people comparing various expressions of trauma or racism. I now feel better equipped to call them out for what they're doing–benefiting from and upholding white supremacy.
Most impactful quote: "When you start learning about social injustices in the world, you'll quickly discover it's usually our everyday way of living that has huge implications for the perpetuation of social injustices which can bring about a tremendous amount of guilt...and it's not something that everybody in your friend or family group is going to want to do. So it's an opportunity for you to distance yourself from those people, and start making space for people who want to go on that journey with you. And the good news? It can be sad to distance yourself, but those people can choose to be better people at literally any time."
Diandra is the co-founder of Intersectional Environmentalist (I wasn't familiar with the term "Intersectional environmentalism" before July, but I highly recommend you look into it!), and her IGTV posed an uncomfortable question for me: What are you willing to give up for social equity? Money? Power? Friends? Even family members? She hit on something that I had been grappling with for weeks, as I navigated conversations with friends that clearly had little interest in talking about social justice, saw old colleagues from previous jobs celebrating the Fourth of July on Instagram, and debated with my immediate family about our inherent privilege.
As she mentions in the video, being "that person" and making a commitment to doing the work, whether it be anti-racist, environmental, or intersectional, isn't always a popular choice and can feel extremely isolating. She can empathize! Will you bum out some of your friends? Yes! But it's important that you find and build a likeminded community that shares your values—and while it can be scary to withdraw from relationships that may not currently serve you in that way, there's an important caveat: Those people can choose to educate themselves and be a part of the solution at literally any time (I especially loved her delivery on this line). It encouraged me to pursue a network filled with people who care about others, the planet, and each other, and keep the friends who already do.
Most impactful quote: "Runner's World did a whole issue around women and runners' safety and women sharing stories. But a key piece was missing. In none of these conversations were they talking about sexism, patriarchy, white supremacy–the systemic issues. So everything was talking about, 'What is the individual's responsibility, because society is what it is?' And for me, that's just not enough."
Learning about the origins of running as exercise had never occurred to me, even as some who has considered herself "a runner." NPR's Code Switch got me started, and packs a punch with this video episode, which illuminated how running and whiteness became inextricably linked. The killing of Ahmaud Arbery has reignited the conversation around safety in the running world, and while we've been socialized to talk about vulnerability when it comes to running as women, the dangers of running while Black are rarely discussed. You get a briefing on how World War II, the founder of Nike, yuppies, and the Central Park Five case all contributed to the (white) female-centric narrative, and how the idea that running is democratic ("all you need are shoes!") is a fallacy.
There's so much to continue to unpack, but what struck me about this video was how pervasive anti-Blackness is and how racism runs so deep (see what I did there?), even when examining something as mundane as a quick jog around the neighborhood.
Most impactful quote: "See, white supremacy is creating an idea of a society, and using the state to enforce it. This is what we're fighting against. Before you all became white, you were something else, and we were something else. And we've had to fight in your white supremacist delusion for far too long. You're lucky that this is all we did. You're lucky that we're appealing to your humanity. You're lucky that we're not asking for vengeance or revenge, because that's easy. But our love is radical, it's abolitionist. It's a future where each and everybody has what they need, what they deserve, what they want. It's raising a kid, who is four years old, who is not afraid of the police. Just to remind you why we're here."
Ravyn Wngz is a force to be reckoned with. After three BLM members were charged in the defacing of monuments in Toronto, she gave an impassioned speech during a press conference at Ryerson University about the collective exhaustion of the Black community. Her message is clear: They're tired of fighting for their dignity. They're tired of trying to initiate conversations with leaders, creating performance art, and writing books to clearly communicate what they need, especially when all they're asking for is basic human rights. They've done the work, and they're still not being heard. It took the defacing of statues–ones that represent slavery, colonialism, and violence–to actually get the attention of the press and Canadian leadership. What's worse? The police respond with more action over pink paint than they do when a Black person is killed.
Her delivery is calm and steady, but the frustration is palpable (and her sign-off nearly gave me déjà vu, until I realized the warning was similar to Kimberly Jones' from last month). It's powerful to see a Black trans woman in a leadership position, and her words are scorching, heartbreaking, and will cut right through you: "There's a saying in America, 'life, liberty, and justice...' Black people are still on life. We still haven't gotten anything else."
Most impactful quote: "Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man, and when a decent man messes up, as we are all bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize. Not to save face, not to win a vote, he apologizes genuinely to repair and acknowledge the harm done so that we can all move on."
The speech heard 'round the world had to take its place on this list. I've seen it three times since it aired last week, and encourage you to watch all 10 minutes, not just a highlight reel. If you need background, read up, then allow future President of the United States Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to redefine "take no shit" in her unwavering address on the House floor.
During a time when we're being encouraged to apologize for our past (and present!) mistakes and wrongdoings, Representative Ted Yoho provided the perfect example of what not to do: deny, deflect, and in no way address the impact of his actions. While I'd really love for him to be the next example in Rachel Cargle's Saturday School lesson, AOC managed to deliver the perfect rebuttal herself, where she remarked that this dehumanizing language used against women in our society is a pattern that must end.
Yoho's excuses rang a bell–it felt reminiscent of the "I have Black friends, so I can't be racist!" remark, and was a solid reminder that proximity to someone similar to the person harmed does not absolve you of responsibility for your actions. Yoho's wife and daughters don't negate his blatant sexism, they're not shields for his discrimination. And his refusal to offer a sincere apology (and the House's acceptance of it) continues to perpetuate patriarchy and white supremacy. Thankfully, AOC doesn't accept abuse from men, and she wiped the floor with him.
Most impactful quote: "You learning to be an ally by reading How to Be an Antiracist and White Fragility, or scrolling through IG, is like me learning French through classroom learning. It's helpful up to a point–but it doesn't put your learning to practice. It takes practice to identify racism in a single moment, decide how to speak up, and do it instantly. One hundred books on allyship can't prepare you for how scared you might feel in that moment...Expose yourself to opportunities that help you practice, and know that learning from the mistakes you make will be more helpful than any IG story I put together."
I love a well-designed Instagram story (probably more than most), and it's what makes me doubly appreciative of the work that Nora Maxwell is doing. If you scroll through her highlights, you'll find deep dives (usually 100-slide-long stories) into topics like ally fatigue, making mistakes, colorism, and implicit bias. Though my favorite has been her "Allyship: From Learning to Doing" series, where she uses personal examples of people who have shown up in her inner circle to illuminate the actions of true allies (or accomplices, if you, like me, use Weeze's definitions). Tap through Part 1, where she reminds viewers that knowing the right words or reading the recommended books doesn't make you an ally. It also doesn't properly prepare you for the real-life exchanges you will have that test your support.
She calls this phenomenon "The Curse of the Language Class," which blew my mind. She likened anti-racist work to studying a foreign language in school; you can read as many textbooks as you want, know the vocabulary, and memorize the answers for an oral test, but if you haven't immersed yourself in the language outside of that classroom setting, you'll never be fully fluent. You're more likely to make mistakes out in the real world–but those mistakes lead to learning and growth. I felt like this lesson was directed at me, someone who took four years of Spanish in high school and three years of French in college, but studied abroad in Paris. Even though I have technically spent less time "learning" French academically, I'm more comfortable speaking it because I've practiced rerouting conversations to fit within the boundaries of my knowledge, got used to fumbling, and learned from those moments. I can clearly see the parallels, and acknowledge that no amount of prep work will truly ready me for the inevitably awkward conversations about systemic racism that must be had.
Most impactful quote: "To me, this moment is about finding a way to rename that bridge after the man who put that bridge on the right side of history by being willing to risk his life, risk his body, and blood, marching across it, for that most precious and important of American rights: the right to vote. The right to enfranchise all Americans. Acknowledge the fact that renaming the bridge is a start, and actually, my concern is that it just becomes a ceremonial gesture. When you have people that are dragging their feet finally do the right thing, I think they get pleased with themselves. Renaming the bridge is the beginning of the journey towards affecting the change that John Lewis marched for. It's not the end of the journey."
Caroline is a poet, professor, and essayist (you may recognize her name from her piece in the New York Times). She also happens to be the great-great-granddaughter of Edmund Pettus, the grand dragon of the KKK, and the namesake of the bridge you've likely heard quite a bit about this month. The death of John Lewis, the civil rights leader and politician who encouraged us all to get in "good trouble," reignited the conversation around renaming the site where Bloody Sunday took place in 1965 (sign the petition here!).
Embarrassingly, I had no clue who Edmund Pettus was or what he stood for (even after a Selma viewing last month) before this interview. The video prompted me to do my own research, and it got me thinking–how many other monuments exist with problematic roots? Turns out, a lot. The South is littered with them, and Caroline's concern is that we (as in white people) will see renaming said monuments as the closing chapter in the book of racial injustice, when in fact, it's just the start. Valuing truths about our history, no matter how ugly, is imperative, and memorializing actual heroes, like Lewis, is the bare minimum we can do to begin to right centuries of wrongs. In Caroline's words: "We rename the bridge, and then we get to work."
They also discuss the current movement to restore and update the Voting Rights Act (remember Hannah Bronfman's breakdown from last month?) and rename it after Lewis (which passed earlier this week in the House, though it will likely come up against strong headwinds and is unlikely to pass in the Senate). Yet again, we see the undeniable impact our elected officials have on legislation, and it's a harrowing reminder to vote this November, and in every election thereafter.