While September may already feel like ages ago, it was another month packed with devastation and incendiary headlines: parts of Trump's tax returns were uncovered, charges were only brought to one of the three officers who killed Breonna Taylor (and only for wanton endangerment), we lost the incomparable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the US hit over 200,000 deaths from coronavirus, Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court (which could have "bombshell consequences"), more fires continued to ravage the West Coast, and we had to sit through what I don't think can technically be called a presidential debate. Talk about an exhausting 30 days.
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:
Most impactful quote: "I want to be really clear about what America was told about Black lives with this decision today, and what Black America was told once again. We were told that a young Black woman's life was of less value than the drywall she slept next to. That Blackness is seen as a threat, even when we are at rest. And that a system that was built on our back was one that even in moments of fleeting hope is ultimately one that we can never, ever trust...You cannot fault people for deciding that a system that continues to disrespect our dignity can't be reformed. It has to actually be defunded, divested from, and moved out of the way so that we can have true peace and justice in our communities...The social contract actually requires that we give an institution authority only when they give us safety and protection in return. That exchange has not been happening for Black people in this country for the entire time we have been here. This is 400 years of fed up."
I, along with so many others, yelled Breonna Taylor's name hundreds of times at protests, signed petitions, wrote multiple emails to the governor and attorney general of Kentucky and the mayor of Louisville, and donated to organizations demanding justice for her unlawful death.
But what I've come to realize is that Breonna Taylor cannot get justice, because justice would mean a living, breathing Breonna, alive today. Yet after 190 days, millions of phone calls and emails, hundreds of global protests, and pushes by politicians, leaders, and activists, only one of the three officers responsible for Breonna Taylor's murder was indicted last month–for wanton endangerment. He was charged for the bullets that didn't even hit her.
The most devastating collective reaction I saw to the indictment in the case was, "I'm heartbroken, but no longer surprised."
Activist, educator, and writer Brittany Packnett Cunningham summed up what this ruling meant for Black Americans on MSNBC, and how this decision reflects a horribly broken system that needs rebuilding. Her words are piercing, and her message is clear: The Black community receives little protection and a lot of violence at the hands of law enforcement, the people who are trusted to keep them safe. And that trust is broken.
Most impactful quote: "COVID-19 is real, deadly, and ravaging our most vulnerable communities (especially those of BIPOCs). Protecting your community is more important than a night out with friends. Always. Do not feel bad for saying no to plans. Your concerns are valid and you are not over-reacting. There is no 'returning to a normal' that puts our most vulnerable at risk, they are ABSOLUTELY worth the sacrifice of personal outings."
We're seven months into the pandemic in the States, and there's still no light at the end of the tunnel: No realistic timeline of a vaccine. No plan put in place to help rebound from the economic loss, or assist the thousands of businesses that have been forced to shutter permanently, or fix the damage done to our healthcare system. No transparent and impactful policy to ensure more lives are not lost. Other countries have implemented systems that are working, but the US remains the country with the most confirmed cases (which is not a race we should be proud to be leading).
That might sound cynical...because it is. While the virus continues to claim peoples' friends and family members and devastate communities (especially those who are already marginalized), there are those who remain casual, and frankly, irresponsible, about coronavirus. And what's worse, they make those around them who choose to take it seriously feel like they're the ones overreacting.
While I acknowledge that everyone's comfort levels may vary when it comes to activities outside the home, it's infuriating to hear excuses for why the risk isn't actually a risk at all, and as Courtney says, to feel gaslit by those who aren't taking precautions seriously. The loss of life is tremendous–at the time I'm writing this, over 214,000 have lost their lives to this deadly disease. That is not something to be taken lightly, and for me personally, is something worth skipping a few months of social gatherings for.
My plea to those fortunate enough to be able to work, virtually socialize, and manage from home: Please continue to do so. There are those who don't have that option, so be diligent for them. Individual freedom shouldn't come at the expense of the health and safety of others, and if you do leave your house, wear a damn mask.
Most impactful quote: "There's no shame in being wrong. Only in refusing to learn."
I had a tough time choosing between two of Marie's powerful posts in September: this thread on common red flags in conversations about race and the Reel you see above. I encourage you to scroll through the first as it's absolutely worth reading, but I opted for the video for a few reasons.
Marie, who is a self-described social justice and anti-racism educator, adapted these seemingly simple phrases from a graphic designed by The Foreward into a new format that communicates their message in such an effective manner. As someone who works in social media, I thoroughly enjoy seeing the same information conveyed in two totally different, but equally productive, pieces of content. I also appreciate that Marie used a compelling TikTok trend to get viewers hooked from the onset, needing to stick around to discover the remaining phrases, and perhaps even watch it on loop so it really sinks in.
I'm currently working on incorporating these phrases into my everyday life, both online and in person, and hope that we can foster communities that no longer see it as shameful to acknowledge mistakes.
Most impactful quote: "There is a mindful approach that can be preventative here that can help support you around this feeling of panic and overwhelm in your day-to-day life, and also in how you are approaching your voting experience."
Erica Chidi is a change agent. She's the cofounder and CEO of LOOM, a well-being brand that provides nonjudgmental and inclusive information about reproduction and empowers women through sexual and reproductive health. Leslie and I attended a panel Erica spoke on a few years ago, and her presence is both soothing and electric – her insights and advice were so profound that I couldn't help but rapidly take notes on my phone, wishing to bottle up and immortalize all her wisdom in a place I could revisit whenever I might need it. It was clear that this work is both her passion and her purpose, and that she is the precise person you'd want leading you through some of the most trying and unfamiliar phases of life.
She describes herself as both a "passenger of panic" and "driver of panic," since she's helped women navigate through birth, miscarriage, and abortion for over a decade and dealt with her own personal traumas. And while she generally focuses on reproductive wellness, this IGTV speaks more to anxiety, and how to navigate any panic you might feel leading up to the election next month. She offers tools to help you feel more grounded and anchored to your body, that will hopefully scratch away at the sense of overwhelm you might be feeling around the voting experience.
After a brief overview of the vagus nerve, she describes three ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest, slowing down, relaxation) to support yourself if you find the intensity to be overpowering:
1. Talk to yourself. While this option is the most stigmatized, when you'e talking to yourself, you're using your vocal cords, which has been proven to be self soothing. To start, she recommends running through your to-do list for the day, and if that still feels uncomfortable, try humming, or even chanting.
2. Use the tool of observation. If a situation begins to feel overwhelming, pick something very specific in your environment, and really focus on it–like a cup in your kitchen, a pen on the table, or a sign on a building. Turn it into a focal point until you find the charge dissipating.
3. Diaphragmatic breathing. This is a practice to create deep, expansive breath without a ton of effort (and is used widely in meditation for its multitude of benefits). Inhale for about two seconds, and breathe out and exhale as long as you can, until you begin to feel any intensity melt away.
Most impactful quote: "I could be a reverse racist if I wanted to. All I would need would be a time machine...I'd get in my time machine, I'd go back in time to before Europe colonized the world. I'd convince the leaders of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, Central and South America to invade and colonize Europe. Just occupy them, steal their land and resources. Set up some kind of trans Asian slave trade where we exported white people to work on giant rice plantations in China....But of course, in that time, I'd make sure I set up systems that privilege Black and Brown people at every conceivable social, political, and economic opportunity, and while people would never have any hope of real self-determination....If, after hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of years of that, I got on a stage at a comedy show and said, 'Hey, what's the deal with white people?'...That would be reverse racism."
I generally prefer to highlight new, original social media content posted during the month I'm writing the roundup, but this video is an exception. Though it's technically from 2013, Aamer's "reverse racism" joke is still just as relevant seven years later (and I'd never seen it before discovering this account's post that published it mid-September).
In under three minutes, Aamer manages to delegitimize the argument that reverse racism exists. Deadpan, he highlights the centuries-long systemic global oppression of POC within a comedy routine, leaving viewers feeling both wide-eyed from his masterful delivery and shaken from the truth of the joke.
Here's the takeaway: White people cannot be both the creators of the construct of race and victims of discrimination in a system they built to perpetually benefit them. So if you're ever dealing with a friend, family member, or person in your sphere who claims that reverse racism is a thing, let Aamer do the arguing for you.
Most impactful quote: "I'm not here to say that any one politician is the answer. Because no one politician is the answer. No one president is the answer. You are the answer. Mass movements are the answer. Millions of people are the answer...So we need you to show up."
The moment I learned about Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing, like so many others, I panicked. It was the 2020 gut-punch that pushed me over the edge, and the pessimist in me immediately began to spiral. Feeling unbelievably hopeless and helpless, and in the face of a tragedy with potentially decades-long repercussions, I knew there was only one voice I wanted to hear from: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
AOC came through, as she usually does. My admiration and respect for her has already been documented in a previous roundup, but this situation felt different. She snapped me out of my melancholic fog by stating that "cynicism is not only unproductive, it's actively harmful...for the progressive movement and our future." Her energy was collected and infectious, and I felt like an athlete getting the pep talk from my coach. She gave clear, concise action items while educating me along the way, and allowed each viewer to feel empowered by repeating that every single person has something to give in this fight for democracy.
If you, too, have been feeling impotent, here's what she recommended:
1. Check your voter registration and ensure your information is up to date.
2. Organize – and she doesn't mean launch a project of your own. Look at the people who are already organizing in our communities. Follow them, listen to them, and show up for them.
3. Identify five people that you suspect might not be voting that you can get through to and talk to them.
4. Be ready to be responsive. Prepare to correct misinformation and act when leaders need our help.
5. If you have the means, donate to organizations fighting for our future.
So, leading by example, I'll prompt you: Which are you planning to give? I've committed to all five, because as she stated, "This moment, right now, requires all of us to do better and be better."
Most impactful quote: "A white supremacist is not just some militia guy living in the hills with a bunch of guns and Nazi tattoos. White supremacy is also hearing about an incident of police brutality, and the first thing you do is start questioning the victim's credibility instead of questioning the tactics in which the victim was handled, on video, by the supposed keeper of the peace. Now I'm not calling you a white supremacist, I'm just saying that when you do that, you're acting like one. And you can do the math from there."
Light is an author, podcast host, and meditation teacher whose Instagram profile is chock-full of profound videos with simple tools to help you create your own happiness. But this "Insights with Light" IGTV in particular gave me much more to reflect on (watch the whole thing through for context – it's under four minutes long!).
Did you always assume that Rosa Parks was the first Black person to refuse to leave her seat in the South in 1955? I'd honestly never read more than what I learned in US History classes, so I'd believed she was. Not the case! She just happened to be the first without any previous run-ins with the law. This was a strategic and purposeful decision used by the organizers of the civil rights movement, who used Rosa Parks' arrest as the catalyst for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. They knew that if anyone else had any sort of legal history, racists would justify their treatment because the person could be deemed a "troublemaker."
Today, it's clear that the law that prohibited Black people from riding at the front of buses was the problem, and it's easy to label the people of 1950's Montgomery as "ignorant morons," as Light puts it. But because segregation was so deeply woven into the fabric of society, even "well-meaning" white people didn't have a problem with the discriminatory treatment of the Black community–a clear example of the power of white supremacy.
He reminds viewers that just because something is the law doesn't mean it's a just law (think about slavery or voter suppression), and just because someone has past legal troubles doesn't mean they're deserving of mistreatment by the police. Sound eerily familiar?
His focus shifts to the seemingly endless unjust killings of Black people by the police, and he makes a clear and distinct link between the ways in which white supremacy still manages to mutate (yup, like a disease) to fit the current societal norms. I'd summarize it, but I don't think I can personally add any more to help illuminate Light's own words:
"If the people who have been on the receiving end of oppression for four hundred years are telling you very clearly how they're being oppressed and how it makes them feel and you respond with things like 'the police are just doing their jobs!' or 'what about Black-on-Black crime?' or 'why didn't they just do what they were told?' You're essentially acting like those 'really nice' white supremacists in Montgomery, Alabama, who we now look back on and think to ourselves, 'jeez, what ignorant morons.'"