August was suffocating. Jacob Blake was shot seven times by the police, a gunman killed two civilians and injured another who were protesting said shooting (...and our president defended him), the country is still fighting for equality 57 years after the March on Washington, and the world lost Chadwick Boseman, a real-life hero—all in the final nine days of the month. And we can't forget the global pandemic and economic crisis.
The disheartening and draining news cycle seems endless, as the racial reckoning many of us are calling for continues to feel so out of reach. It's beyond tiring.
But my conclusion? I can't even imagine how exhausted Black folx must be.
This heaviness that permeates throughout the media, conversations, and social media is pervasive, and it doesn't take dedicated anti-racist work to recognize that the Black community can't catch a f*cking break. So I wanted to take a moment to emphasize the work of the five Black women listed below, who continue to show up and fight to make the world a better place... all in the wake of the aforementioned trauma and heartbreak.
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 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:
Most impactful quote: "Language changes. 'Minority' connects a group's identity to how much they make up in a given society. Not cool."
Like any good millennial, I love digestible content, especially when I really learn something from it. Blair Imani (@blairimani) is an activist and author whose "Smarter in Seconds" is my favorite use of Instagram Reels yet–she educates on anti-racist and inclusive language, concepts, and dilemmas that are all incredibly useful. If you're looking for a crash course on pronouns, start with these; if you're curious about when it no longer became appropriate to use "minority," she's got you covered; and while I'd recommend viewing all of them, the few on intersectionality, using slurs, and asking questions are particularly informative.
Most impactful quote: "So many people have reached out to me telling me they're sorry that this happened to my family. Well don't be sorry, because this has been happening to my family for a long time, longer than I can account for. It happened to Emmett Till, Emmett Till is my family. Philando, Mike Brown, Sandra. This has been happening to my family, and I've shed tears for every one of these people that it's happened to. I'm not sad, I'm not sorry, I'm angry. And I'm tired. I haven't cried one time, I stopped crying years ago. I am numb...I'm not sad, I don't want your pity. I want change."
The evening of August 23 felt like a disturbing version of Groundhog Day–the bright light on my phone from a push notification informed me that yet another Black man, Jacob Blake, became another victim of police brutality, this time in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I went to sleep sick to my stomach, the unrest kept me tossing and turning. I felt at a loss for words around this never-ending nightmare.
Two days later, I found myself glued to the same screen watching his sister, Letetra, address the press in Kenosha. Jacob managed to miraculously survive the shooting, though he's currently paralyzed. Her circumstances are unfathomable for me, as a white woman, and witnessing her deliver this speech, poised and unwavering in her conviction, both troubled and moved me. Her strength was palpable... along with her exhaustion. Her words were scathing, pleading listeners to remember that Jacob is human, like everyone around her, and that his life matters. She noted that she's a Black History minor, so not only has she been watching police murder people who look like her throughout her lifetime, she's also been watching it for centuries, before she was even alive, through her studies.
Sympathies and prayers are not enough. Her call for systemic change felt like a rallying cry, and I encourage you to watch these two minutes over and over until it really sinks in. It prompted me to donate to the GoFundMe organized by his mother, sign this Color of Change petition, and email District Attorney Graveley (here's an auto-filling template to make it as seamless as possible; just reformat and add your name), demanding justice for Jacob and calling for the arrest and firing of the officers involved in the shooting.
Most impactful quote: "We can easily fall into believing we are at odds with each other based on different approaches or being at different points in our learning. But if you have a true commitment to justice and a willingness to continue growing/improving, we are on the same team. Not a single one of us has it all figured out and it’s wild to think we would. Humility is an essential ingredient in this work. Seeing where we are wrong or not as effective as we could be is really important if we want to actualize justice."
Back in June, I was overwhelmed with how much anti-racist content I felt I needed to be constantly consuming. The lists of books to read, activists to follow, podcasts to listen to, and documentaries to watch felt insurmountable, and I was filling every free moment with them. I've since realized that, though it's an overused phrase, it really is a marathon, not a sprint, and many platforms have adapted their content to encourage sustained and actionable effort. New (and often free!) resources became available to subscribe to, like the Anti-Racism Daily and The Nudge ($5 donation), which unpack valuable and crucial subjects in newsletters and texts, and on August 1, the No White Saviors launched the Decolonise Your Mind August Challenge on Instagram.
For each of the 31 days of the month, the NWS team introduced "a new term, concept, historical event or ideological framework" that aims to educate and raise money to fund a library and café in Uganda. It covered the deception of "tribalism," the white savior industrial complex (including a post on Renee Bach), the transatlantic slave trade, colorism, and internalized oppression. I began following along on Day 17, and backtracked to ensure I caught up before the challenge was completed. No White Saviors' posts are an approachable first step to broadening your knowledge about Africa and learning to decolonize the way we perceive it.
Most impactful quote: "Something I’ve been trying to understand more are the nuances between Calling In and Calling Out and how both can be tools in the fight for climate and social justice. What I learned after researching is that both are powerful methods for enacting change in different scenarios and while Calling In and Out have often been associated with 'cancel culture' they are not synonymous or one in the same. It takes a lot of courage to speak up for yourself or for the protection of other marginalized groups and I know it can be really scary."
I wouldn't consider myself a conflict-avoidant person. I invite feedback in the comments, in my DMs, and IRL, especially as I work through any instinctive defensiveness. And as someone with a public-facing role, I'm no stranger to being called in or called out, but I'd never taken the time to recognize the difference.
Earlier this month, Kelly sent me Leah's graphic that helped clearly distinguish the two, and presented a framework both for providing and receiving criticism. It identifies examples of phrases to use when holding other people accountable, and may ease the blow of an unexpected call in or out (it certainly helped when a follower alerted me to my unintended though very legitimate micro-aggression earlier this month – you can see it on my "learning" highlight).
I've found it to be refreshingly helpful as I navigate sticky and unprecedented conversations with people I love, and continue to call in and call out behavior that merits reflection.
Most impactful quote: "We cannot expect some Democrat to save us. We cannot expect some Democrat to be this perfect change that we are looking for in society. We have to do that. We have to continue the power and force of our movements. We have to hold these leaders accountable for the future that we want for this country."
If it wasn't clear from my Instagram content, previous blog posts, or the tone of this series, I'm a progressive and registered Democrat. This month, Joe Biden officially became the Democratic nominee for President, and Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic vice-presidential nomination. It was huge news; Harris is the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party, and is the fourth woman ever in U.S. history to be selected for a presidential ticket. Biden's association with President Obama has made him an appealing candidate, and he's currently favored to win. And while I'll be voting for them in November, I found myself disappointed by the two names on the ticket, primarily because their past center-left policies and lack of concrete, long overdue solutions do not align with my personal values and expectations for our leaders.
After the Harris announcement on August 11, the wave of celebratory social posts left me feeling unprepared to have conversations with family and friends who so enthusiastically support the nominees. I was met with many variations of, "Just be grateful that they're better than Trump." Three days later, Celisia Stanton posted this insightful IGTV and managed to sum up my feelings in a short eight minutes.
Trump is not the root of the problem; he's a symptom, and we need to treat the cause. His overt racism, bigotry, sexism, and xenophobia are embedded in the fabric of the country, and his election was evidence that he touched on sentiments that so many people had been feeling for centuries. Celisia reminds her viewers that the Black Lives Matter movement as we know it began under an Obama presidency, and that Democrats have long supported and reinforced oppressive and racist policies that destroy communities of color. This means we need to constantly be critiquing those in power, demanding they do better, disrupting the systems, and pushing for better than the status quo. And those critiques should be welcomed–regardless of who is in power. Getting Trump out of office won't solve all our issues, and we need to become more comfortable with expecting more from our leaders, because as Celisia says, "We cannot make change from the scraps that we're given."
I'd never watched or heard of Winx Club, an Italian-American cartoon show (which aired in 2004, and came to Nickelodeon in 2015), before this month. And after viewing a single minute on impact's Instagram channel, I'll be avoiding it at all costs.
You don't have to read Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped from the Beginning to know that racism runs through every aspect of American culture, from history textbooks to the definition of the color "nude." Over the past few months, I've taken note of how many of the movies I consume prominently feature actors of color or white-centered tropes (so far the conclusion is looking as bleak as expected), but I hadn't considered how animated series may be playing a role in prejudice from such a young age.
Enter this clip from Winx Club, which had me audibly gasping as the scene progressed. If you're searching for a straightforward, unmistakable example of racism, look no further: It's riddled with microaggressions (a white character unapologetically touches the Black character's hair) and other forms of both covert and overt racism (referring to an afro as "a catastrophe," and blonde hair "gold silk").
My heart aches for the Black children who may have watched this and felt unworthy, or that their natural hair was undesirable. It's simultaneously terrifying to think about anyone viewing this at a young age being programmed to believe that white attributes make someone more desirable. There are plenty of posts and thoughtful pieces written about why representation matters in media, but if you have a moment, read this one which feels especially timely.
Growing up, I likely wouldn't have thought much of this problematic scene, since my white privilege allowed me to ignore it–but as an adult, I will continue to apply a critical lens to everything from the media I ingest to the products I purchase.
Franchesca Ramsey is magnetic. I've been saving and watching her IGTVs for months, and I'm consistently hooked after the first few seconds. It's no wonder MTV tapped her to spearhead Decoded, a weekly series where she tackles race, pop culture, and other uncomfortable things, in funny and thought-provoking ways, back in 2015.
This season is all about policing in America, where she hopes to address how we can end police violence and start to create safer communities. She manages to take lofty topics, like the "mythical good cop," defunding the police, or qualified immunity, and boils them down in episodes that are 10 minutes or less, arming you with graphics, data, and quotes that build her cases. I finish each video feeling informed and stimulated, prepared to fight and dismantle unjust systems. You can find the Decoded archive here, and I invite you to join me in making your way through all eight seasons.