Joe Biden may have won the election, but our fights for progressive policy are not yet over—reproductive rights could still be at stake, climate change is still happening, and police brutality is still happening (to name a few). Presidential elections, no matter the outcome, don’t immediately remove oppressive systems from American society. So while voting is a great way to enact political change, it isn’t the only way—the rest of the fight is up to us. Here are a few other ways we can make sure that the momentum of the blue wave continues long after the election.
If You Are Eligible, Vote In The Georgia Runoff Election
Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock will enter a runoff election on January 5th against incumbent Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, respectively. On Election Day, none of the candidates received 50% of votes, the cutoff needed to avoid a runoff. The outcome of these two runoffs will determine which party will take control of the Senate—an Ossoff/Warnock victory would mean a blue Senate. The earliest day an already registered voter can mail their absentee ballot for this election is November 18th, and the last day to register to vote is December 7th. Early voting will begin on December 14th. If you are a Georgia resident of at least 17 ½ years of age, you can register to vote in the runoffs through the Secretary of State’s office here. (Gen-Z, do your thing.) And of course, if you’re not eligible to vote in Georgia, you can still volunteer and get involved in the final fight to flip the Senate.
Contact Emily W. Murphy And Tell Her To Recognize Biden As The Winner Of The Election
Emily W. Murphy, the Trump-appointed administrator of the General Services Administration, must formally recognize President-elect Biden for the transition of power to begin. When Murphy does so, the Biden-Harris team will be able to access millions of dollars in funding, begin studying agency briefing, and access office space. However, Murphy still has yet to declare him the winner, consequently holding up the process. You can email Murphy at [email protected], call her at 202-501-1794, or fax her at 202-501-4281. Tell her to formally recognize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and begin this transfer of power.
Become Familiar With Your Local Politicians
Local representatives do important work that directly affects you and your immediate community, so it’s important to be familiar with their policies. You can input your address here to find a full list of your local elected officials and their contact information. The Presidential election may get the most attention, but it’s crucial to vote in local and state elections, because that’s how a lot of the biggest changes are carried out.
If You Find A Local Politician Whose Policies You Support, Volunteer In Their Campaign
You’ll play a key role in influencing future voters to help your area stay blue. Your campaign involvement could include text and phone banking, assistance with voter registration, and many other forms of community outreach.
Begin Community Organizing
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Our vote is essential in the fight for our rights. Have you voted yet? . . . .
Check out this Introduction to Organizing from Center for Community Change to learn more about what organizing in your community could look like. A process aimed at creating change, it can come in many forms and at many levels—from creating petitions and fundraisers to leading demonstrations. If you’re interested in the latter, check out this Rally Organizing Guide from MoveOn. (Keep in mind that there are often existing organizers who have been doing important community work and creating verified events—so if you want to get involved with a cause, do your research to make sure that you’re not trying to essentially ‘start’ a movement that already exists.)
Attend Demonstrations Related To Causes You Care About
Protests and demonstrations have always been an important part of our country’s democracy, and they’re not going anywhere. Small or large, demonstrations can play an important role in making your voice heard and getting momentum behind important causes. Before you go, make sure you take a look at Amnesty International’s guide to staying safe during protests and the ACLU’s guide to protester’s rights.
Get Involved With Local Issue-Driven Organizations
Contributing some of your free time or money to community-based groups dedicated to reproductive health and immigrant and refugee wellbeing, for example, is a great way to make immediate and direct changes around you.
There are countless organizations all over the country that need your help to help others. Below, find a few of our favorites:
Reproductive Health: Help make sure that people continue to have access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, birth control, abortions, family planning, and much more. Planned Parenthood
Immigrant & Regufee Issues: Your donations will help provide free or low-cost legal aid to immigrants who are detained or in immigration custody. RAICES, The Florence Project, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project
Bail Funds: In states with bail or bond systems, these donations release jailed protesters. Louisville Community Bail Fund, Atlanta Solidarity Fund, Philadelphia Bail Fund, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Portland Freedom Fund
Black LGBTQ Funds/Organizations: Help provide mental health care, medical aid, education and more to Black LGBTQ communities. Black Trans Advocacy Coalition, Sylvia Riviera Law Project, The Okra Project, Marsha P. Johnson Institute
Disabled BIPOC Funds/Organizations: Donations will go toward medical aid and educational programs for disabled Black/indigenous people of color. HEARD (Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf Communities), Autistic People of Color Fund
Political Organizations: These organizations work to fight voter suppression by creating Black-voter education initiatives and supporting Black political candidates. Fair Fight, Black Voters Matter
Policy Reform Organizations: You can help fund legislative efforts to change racist policies at both local and national levels. ACLU, Color of Change, Los Angeles Black Worker Center, Dallas Alliance Against Racial and Political Oppression
Images: Spike Johnson / Shutterstock.com; fairfightaction, moveon, plannedparenthood / Instagram
In June, after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the Black Lives Matter movement saw an influx of support. Many people attended protests, used their platforms to amplify Black voices, and opened their pockets to support Black people and Black-owned businesses. During the month of June, I remember having this enthusiastic feeling about change to come. When the movement for social equality began to gain momentum, it seemed as though everyone wanted to be involved. We had major corporations making initiatives within their companies to enact change. Sephora created the 15% pledge that promised to have at least 15% of their products sourced from Black-owned businesses. Netflix highlighted Black films and bought the rights to many Black sitcoms that were prominent in the 90s and early 2000s. Even Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from his position within the company in order to bring on a Black person to replace him. It seemed as though people were really listening to us and pushing for change.
When the protests began in early June, I wanted to find a way to use my voice so that people could understand what Black Lives Matter is and why it is incredibly important. Writing has always been my outlet, and I feel like words have power, so I started to write essays and poetry that reflected my feelings as a Black person in this world and posted them on my Instagram. Along with those essays, I created guides to help people understand how to contribute to Black Lives Matter in a genuine fashion. My reasoning for creating the guides in the first place was because of the constant performative activism I was seeing on social media. I witnessed so many black squares with #blackouttuesday on my feed and felt a sense of emptiness. It felt like people were taking part in a trend, instead of taking the initiative to support BLM and educate themselves. But instead of bitching about it and making myself more frustrated, I created guides. I kept telling myself that some people just needed education on Black Lives Matter and that once they received the necessary knowledge, they would do better. Surprisingly, because of the power of social media, my guides have been shared by thousands of people from all walks of life. I have received messages from people in the entertainment industry, several different publications, and even people that consider themselves “reformed” racists, all thanking me for my work and telling me that they wanted to do better and educate themselves. It felt good to know that people wanted to see change, and I felt proud to be a small part of the reason why change was happening.
However, with good feedback also came criticism—or, to be honest, I don’t even know if criticism is the right word. There are times that I receive hateful messages from folks with such derogatory and passive-aggressive rhetoric that I find myself in a state of shock reading them. I’ve had people aggressively put down my work, call me racist for calling out white privilege, or continuously harass me through my direct messages on a daily or weekly basis. When I tell people about this, especially non-Black people, they seem confused. In their eyes, the “activism” that was displayed in June was enough for discrimination toward Black people to be over. That’s the problem. Racism isn’t going to magically go away because you posted a black square on your Instagram, or you wrote a long personal essay reflecting on your privilege and how you “need to do better”. Acts of racism towards Black people have been happening for hundreds of years. Racism was not going to disappear into thin air by the end of June. Racism was not going to “take a break” so that you could celebrate the Fourth of July. Racism is very much alive and seems more aggressive than ever, partly due to the impending election.
I am very aware that writing this essay and publishing it to a platform that has a majority white audience can come with backlash. I know that many of you might personally feel as though pop culture and lifestyle platforms are becoming “too political”, and that you just want to be able to “enjoy” it and not make everything about race. That right there is an issue. Human rights are not political, whatsoever. Feeling enraged because your favorite celebrities are continuously using their platforms to amplify Black Lives Matter is racist. Getting upset because your favorite Bravolebrity was fired for racist behavior? Racist. When you find yourself tweeting things like “Why does everything have to be about race?”, or “Don’t pull the Black card.”, it’s racist. To those who consider themselves allies, stop confusing ignorance with racism as a way to make excuses for those whom you admire. To be ignorant, you would have to have a lack of knowledge as it pertains to the subject at hand. The subject here is Black lives, and a majority of you reading this are educated enough to know right from wrong—so we are not talking about ignorance, but racism. Start publicly condemning your racist colleagues. I don’t care how many followers the person has, what connections they might have that might help elevate you, or whether or not you believe them to be a good person. If you genuinely give a f*ck about your Black friends and family, you will do what is right. Your voice matters now more than ever. Here are some ways that you can continue to practice allyship and contribute for equality towards Black people.
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To be quite honest with you, I know that Instagram guides on injustice are seemingly becoming repetitive. However for the past few days, I’ve noticed not only a decrease in “online support” for the #blacklivesmatter movement but also a lot of Anti-Black rhetoric. Your support for this movement shouldn’t be leverage you hold against Black people when you see an injustice committed by a Black person. This movement is also not a damn meme and isn’t something that’s gonna just go away over night. I also believe that words have power. The more we educate the more we can eradicate racist behavior/policies. However, we also need action. Corporations and people with power, hire more Black people. School Districts, hire more Black teachers. Hospitals, hire more Black health care professionals. Don’t just say something, DO SOMETHING, and don’t wait for us to be around to show support. Keep that same energy everywhere. Shoutout to @heysharonc for creating the #pulluporshutup initiative. It opened my eyes to how much companies lack diversity across the board especially as it pertains to Black people. Now I need a mental health break after all of this 😭, thanks for the support everyone and please continue to show solidarity to the #blacklivesmatter movement 💛✨💪🏾
Open Your Purse
Besides supporting your local Black businesses, there are also other ways to open your purse and support Black people. With the results of the election coming out soon, there are sure to be protests coming from all sides. Usually, at these protests, Black people are more likely to be arrested and charged. If you can, try to donate to bail funds in your local area that could help bail out Black protesters in your area.
Vote in every election that you have. I don’t care if it’s for the HOA board in your building, your student council if you attend college or your local election in your town. Every election matters, not just the presidential election. If you have the privilege to vote, utilize it.
Read The Room
Performative activism is not cute and actually does more harm than good. If you show up to a protest just to contribute to looting or to show up to take selfies, you are taking part in performative activism, which is activism for the sole purpose of personal gain. Don’t show up if you are going to do this. Also, do not take part in protesting for BLM just so that you can excuse or justify your own racist/ignorant behavior down the line. Allyship does not exempt you from being called out as well.
Lastly, please have the necessary conversations with those around you. Call out discriminatory behavior when you see it. If you see something, say something in the moment. If you continuously see this behavior in individuals around you, cut them off. Some people aren’t meant to be changed and you willingly being around them says a lot about your character. One of the most consistent ways to practice allyship is to continually call out racism when you see it in your everyday life.
Images: Maverick Pictures / Shutterstock.com; jonathanchandler_ / Instagram
Being Black in a predominantly white space can oftentimes be incredibly uncomfortable, in part because of microaggressions. A microaggression is a constant interaction or behavior that comes across as hostile and prejudiced toward a marginalized group, whether or not the intention was to offend. Read that last part again: whether or not the intention was to offend.
Many Black people have constantly dealt with microaggressions throughout their lives. From the beginnings of our adolescence in the classroom, to our adulthoods in which we must navigate the social climates of our workplaces, these passive-aggressive actions do way more harm than good. They often leave stains on how we view ourselves, which become detrimental to our mental, emotional, and physical health. Below are examples of microaggressions that you might have in your everyday vocabulary, and explanations of why they’re inappropriate and offensive.
1. “Is that your real hair? Can I touch it?”
Black hair has always been a controversial topic. From people mimicking our styles to laws making it illegal to discriminate against our hair, we have always had some type of struggle as it relates to our hair. A lot of us—especially Black women—have also had to deal with passive-aggressive comments about it. Whether it is at school, at the grocery store, or at work, asking a Black person “Is that your real hair?” basically implies that Black people are incapable of having our own hair. It is common for white people and non-Black POC to ask us this because of their negative perceptions of Black hair and the stereotype that Black women only wear wigs and weaves. When a Black person tells you that it is, in fact, their real hair, please do not take it upon yourself to touch it. This is a downright-disrespectful invasion of privacy. Whether it be braids, a weave, or our natural hair, it is not your right to continuously ask about it, or to make us uncomfortable by touching it. This should also give you insight as to why appropriating Black hair is offensive. If we cannot wear it in peace, why should someone else get to wear it with praise?
2. “You speak “ ‘white’ ”
There is a common misconception that Black people are incapable of encompassing vernacular beyond AAVE (African American Vernacular English). Due to stereotypes perpetuated by white media, many people have this idea that, if a Black person is speaking without AAVE, they are trying to be “white”. First of all, there is no such thing as speaking “white”, so let’s debunk that myth. Second, someone who has an advanced vocabulary is not inherently smarter than someone that uses AAVE. An advanced vocabulary should not relate to intelligence, but because we have been told that it does, many people relate intelligence to whiteness. This then feeds into the myth that Black people are uneducated and are trying to “act white” when they use bigger words. The bottom line is: don’t assume someone’s intelligence based on their vocabulary alone, and don’t believe the negative stereotype that Black people have to speak a certain way in order to “be educated”.
3. “Are you sure you didn’t cheat?”
Being Black in academia is tough. From the lack of representation in teachers to racism in the classroom, being a Black student from kindergarten through college can be a rather traumatizing experience. One common microaggression we face is teachers—and sometimes fellow students—assuming we’ve cheated when receiving a grade that is beyond their expectations. When you, a student, ask someone “Did you cheat?” or “How did you get that grade, when I didn’t even do that well?” you’re once again feeding into the stereotype that Black people are uneducated, and that you believe we are inferior to you. In my experience, many educators also refuse to separate their one or two ‘bad’ experience(s) with Black people from their Black students. This makes the conversations between themselves and Black students contentious; their negative preconceived assumptions about Black people taint their instruction toward Black students.
4. “You’re super hot for a Black person”
Whether it is on Tinder or on an actual date, many of us have, at a certain point, heard someone tell us that we are “attractive for a Black person”. Due to Eurocentric beauty standards, people often correlate beauty with whiteness or fair skin. In my experiences with various dating apps, it’s pretty common for me to get a message at least once a week from someone who is white or a non-Black POC saying something along the lines of “I usually don’t date Black, but you are the exception.” This is not a compliment, nor will it ever be. Telling someone that you are not attracted to their race but that they are the exception to the rule shows your casual racism and makes them feel interior. If you’re against dating someone based off of their ethnicity, you need to take a hard look at yourself. These types of comments should never be stated in the first place. They’re not cute and they will never make anyone feel good about themselves.
These microaggressions are not just things we experience once in a blue moon—sadly, they are things many Black people experience on an almost daily basis. In order for this to stop, we must have these conversations. Whether you’re in the workplace, dating someone who is Black, have Black students, or have Black friends, try to have the conversation with those around you. And if you feel as though you have fed into any of these microaggressions yourself, take this time to stop. In the era of learning, there should also be unlearning.
Image: WOCinTechChat / Unsplash
As we continue to navigate our way through a global pandemic, professional sports have largely resumed play in the past few weeks. With various safety protocols in place, including full quarantine bubbles for several sports, leagues are back up and running, desperate to make up for precious lost months. The NBA, one of the first leagues to come up with a plan to return to the court, is currently holding their playoff tournament in a bubble at Walt Disney World in Florida. But on Wednesday, their postseason came to a sudden halt when players chose to strike rather than play their scheduled games in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Last Sunday, a police officer shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake seven times from behind in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In the days since, Blake has fought for his life in the hospital, and thousands of others in Wisconsin and around the country have returned to the streets to protest another senseless act of police brutality against a Black man.
Many players in the NBA have long been outspoken supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight to dismantle systemic racism, and this summer’s return to play has reflected those priorities. Players have made it clear that basketball is not their only priority, with LeBron James saying, “The same energy we had on the floor is the same energy we have toward having justice for Breonna Taylor and her family.” In the bubble, courts are painted with BLACK LIVES MATTER in bold letters, teams have knelt before games, and players have used their interviews to call for justice for Breonna Taylor. But this week’s events have given the movement a new sense of urgency, and the league’s players have taken matters into their own hands.
Reports of a possible strike began to circulate earlier in the week, with players from the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors meeting to discuss whether they would play the first game of their round two matchup on Thursday. The first official news came on Wednesday afternoon, when the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t show up on court for the fifth game of their first round series against the Orlando Magic. Within the hour, the NBA, along with the players’ association, announced that all of the remaining games scheduled for Wednesday would be rescheduled.
The NBA and the NBPA today announced that in light of the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to not take the floor today for Game 5 against the Orlando Magic, today’s three games – MIL-ORL, HOU-OKC and LAL-POR have been postponed. Game 5 of each series will be rescheduled.
— NBA (@NBA) August 26, 2020
Many NBA players have used their personal platforms to call for change, but according to Celtics guard Marcus Smart, “it’s not working, so obviously something has to be done and right now our focus really shouldn’t be on basketball.” Noting that the playoffs are important, Smart said that there is “a bigger issue, an underlying issue that’s going on and the things that we’ve tried haven’t been working. So we definitely need to take a different approach and we need to try new things out to try to get this thing working the way that we know it should and get our voices heard even more.”
Shortly after the NBA’s decision, the players of the WNBA, also holding its season in a bubble in Florida, announced they would not play their scheduled games on Wednesday. Elizabeth Williams, who plays for the Atlanta Dream, read a statement on behalf of the players on ESPN, in which she said, “We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA and will continue this conversation with our brothers and sisters across all leagues and look to take collective action.” In a powerful display, players from the Washington Mystics wore shirts that spelled out Jacob Blake’s name, and were marked with seven symbolic bullet holes on the back. Mystics star player Ariel Atkins spoke to ESPN about the decision to take a stand, saying “we’re not just basketball players, and if you think we are, then don’t watch us.”
Along with Wednesday’s complete basketball strike, three Major League Baseball games were postponed, as well as several Major League Soccer matches. Later in the evening, tennis star Naomi Osaka announced in a message posted to social media that she would not play her semifinal match in the prestigious Western & Southern Open, scheduled for Thursday. Shortly after Osaka’s message, the tournament, along with both the men’s and women’s tennis tours, announced that all play would be “paused” on Thursday, in order to “collectively take a stance against racial inequality and social injustice.”
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For the NBA and WNBA, it’s unclear where the season goes from here. In an all-NBA player meeting on Wednesday night, it was reported by NBA analyst Shams Charania that two teams, the Lakers and Clippers, voted to call off the remainder of the season, while the remaining teams voted to continue playing. The Lakers are home to LeBron James, who has been extremely outspoken about the Black Lives Matter movement. In the meeting, James reportedly expressed frustration that the league’s owners have not taken more action in this fight, and called out NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for being largely absent from the quarantine bubble. Earlier in the day on Wednesday, as the Bucks sat out that first game, James tweeted a message of frustration.
FUCK THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 26, 2020
The players in the WNBA, however, have full support from their commissioner, Cathy Engelbert. She was on the court with the players on Wednesday as they made the decision to strike, and she told ESPN immediately after that, while she hopes they will decide to finish the season, the league “absolutely supports them.” For both the NBA and WNBA, Thursday’s games are currently still on the schedule, but a further strike certainly isn’t out of the question.
Across both basketball leagues, a common sentiment from players is that this moment is too important to let games and standings drown out the conversation. When George Floyd was killed in May, sports were still indefinitely on hold, so it was impossible to turn on a game and ignore what was going on in the world. Players used their time off to join protests, use their voices, and fight for what’s right. And now, even though they have returned to the court, they’re showing us that their priorities remain the same, and some things are just more important than basketball.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article referred to the act of sitting out games as a “boycott.” The article has been updated to reflect that by withholding labor, the players are striking, not boycotting.
Images: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images; NBA, KingJames / Twitter; naomiosaka / Instagram
“So I have to be honest with you,” I tell “Dr. Iggy”, the doctor behind the viral sensation “Hated In A Hoodie, Hero With A Knife,” “The first thought when I saw your post was, Trayvon Martin.”
“That’s right on the money,” he says, “That’s actually right on.”
The definition of the word hoodie was forever changed in 2012, when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African-American high school student who was visiting his relatives. Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher before he shot an unarmed Martin that there was a “suspicious guy” in a “dark hoodie, a gray hoodie.” Instead of blaming the fatal outcome on Zimmerman’s racism, many blamed Martin’s attire, including Geraldo Rivera, who went on to say on Fox & Friends, “the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was… you cannot rehabilitate the hoodie. Stop wearing it.” In response, many took to the streets to show solidarity, marching, donning hoodies and chanting, “We are all Trayvon Martin.”
Here we are, eight years later, and with the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, Dr. Iggy knew he could no longer remain silent. “When you are silent and things like that happen… your silence is compliance.” As the son of two Nigerian immigrants and the fifth of six children, he was raised with an awareness that he not only had to work hard as a first generation American, but also as a Black American. Although his high school was ethnically diverse, it was in college that he realized the challenges that were ahead. “I went to an advisor at my school, Texas A&M, and she didn’t weigh out the options. She didn’t even look at my grades … I don’t think she took me seriously and it felt like it was because of who she saw across the table.” At the time, he was considering a career in engineering. He had a slight change of heart when noticed some similarities between engineering and medicine, especially after fracturing his pinky toe his freshman year of college. “I missed a dunk contest and cried when using crutches… you can write that down, I’ll own up, ” he tells me, laughing.
Being a resident in Texas, he quickly learned that although he was being treated differently than his colleagues, he had to recognize that some peoples’ ignorance didn’t mean it was something personal. “I haven’t experienced or done everything so I don’t know everything,” he explains, “So when people are being ignorant it’s not necessarily against me… They just haven’t met someone like me before.” But after a series of situations such as people assuming he was “transport” or “a nurse” although his badge clearly says “doctor”, he knew he had to speak up. “Words carry weight… There is this quote in the Bible that goes, ‘the power of life and death are in the tongue’. A simple word can make someone depressed. Residents go through it but I can’t help but think that my experience was related to the color of skin.”
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“The bridge between reality and what people CHOOSE to see.” ❤️ #HatedInAHoodie #OrthopedicSurgeon #RepresentationMatters Scrub cap designer 🎨🧑🏾🎨👩🏽⚕️: @KreedScrubHats #BreonnaTaylor #ElijahMcClain #GeorgeFloyd #AmaudArbery #quotes #TamirRice #EricGarner #inspirationalquotes #todayinfocus #inspiration #MichelleObamaPodcast #Obama #JohnLewis #puppiesofinstagram #LoveWins #Doctor #Surgeon #racism #downtown #hospital #blackexcllence #scrubs #HatedInAHoodie #RepresentationMatters #BlackPoetry #WeAllBleedRed #motivation #motivationalquotes #teamself.
Inspired by his own experience and recent events, Dr. Iggy posted the image that led to the viral sensation, “Hated In A Hoodie, Hero With A Knife.” “I wanted to show people hey, I’m Black, I’m a doctor… There’s this misinterpretation that I’m being elitist with the image. What I am trying to say is when you see me in a durag and a hoodie there is a bias.. But when I wear scrubs, especially being Black, everyone’s mind goes elsewhere. I mean, I could have been Ahmaud Arbery. That could have been me running… every Black life is important.”
“I have a question for you and you don’t have to answer,” I say, “But I mean, every day around 8pm when COVID and quarantine started… We would all celebrate healthcare workers. Thanking them. Now, here we are, and Breonna Taylor worked as a first responder and she was killed in her own home. How do you feel about this hypocrisy?”
“Well, that’s why I did my post,” he says. “ was killed because she wasn’t at work… She was someone serving in the midst of all this and that happened to her. Whether she was wearing that uniform or not, we cannot let her story fall on the wayside.”
So what is Dr. Iggy’s message to those who may feel hopeless during this time of chaos? “When you’re positive with people, you breed positivity. When you’re lighthearted with people, it will make people lighthearted. There’s a quote in the Bible, one of the verses that helps me is, ‘how can two people walk together, unless they agree?’ Understanding is the bridge to getting along together and I always try to be the light in the darkest of times. Think we all need to do our part.”
Images: @IvyWeddings; @doc.iggy / Instagram
As an Asian-American woman, I was embarrassed that it took me until late into the 2020 presidential election primaries to learn that Senator Kamala Harris is half South Asian.
The mainstream media had been primarily focused on the fact that she was a Black woman running for the highest position of office in the country. However, what has been way too often omitted from the coverage is her Indian heritage. Upon being named Joe Biden’s vice-presidential pick on Tuesday, Senator Harris became the first Black woman and the first Indian-American, South Asian, and Asian-American person to be on a major party’s presidential ticket. All these factors contribute to the insurmountable significance of this historic vice-presidential nomination.
Senator Harris is a daughter of Shyamala Gopalan, an Indian-born doctor and activist, and Donald Harris, a Jamaican-born economist and activist. Her parents divorced when she was a child, and she and her sister Maya were raised primarily by Gopalan.
In her memoir The Truths We Hold, Harris mentions that her mother was her most significant influence. The family often visited India when she was young—her mother’s family “instilled us with pride in our South Asian roots,” Harris writes. Kamala Devi Harris shares her first name with a beloved Indian flower, a Hindu deity, and a Bihari river. Her middle name Devi means goddess in Hindu.
Yet, there are still some folks who might be surprised to discover Harris’ Indian-American identity.
During her 2010 bid for California attorney general, many in San Francisco’s Indian American community were surprised to learn about her Indian ancestry. Until this week, the media often omitted her South Asian identity and merely identified her as the first Black woman so-and-so. During the presidential primary race, reporters and analyzers seldom referred to Harris as the “Asian American candidate”–such title only went to Andrew Yang.
When the speakers were announced for next week’s Democratic National Convention, many claimed – incorrectly – that the event included no Asian American speakers. Kamala Harris’ name was clearly listed. (One person to represent an entire minority group is, of course, is far from adequate, and Yang has since been added to the line up as well.)
Even as a U.S.-born East Asian American, I never fully felt a part of the American culture while growing up. To this day, strangers underestimate my ability to understand and read English, even though I write for a living, and English was the first language I learned as a child. Growing up in a predominately white town, I was one of the few “oriental-looking” students (as teachers phrased it) in school. My childhood best friend was South Asian, and we initially bonded over the fact that we were always “othered” by our peers.
Coming of age during the aftermath of 9/11 and a few years later, the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting, my Asian-American peers and I were seriously confused about our place in America. Bullied and named-called by our peers as a “terrorist” or “shooter,” it was challenging to grapple with our identities or ethnicities. America was the only place that we knew to call home, and so to be told to “go back to your own country” was so confusing and disheartening.
We would never have fathomed to see ourselves in the highest office. I get goosebumps just thinking about what this historic moment means to today’s kids who might be in similar shoes as I was back then.
Although there is no one right way to discuss or portray Harris’ identity, it does a massive disservice to her ancestors and the overall Asian-American community to completely ignore this aspect of her heritage and identity. To give attention to only her Black heritage feeds into the entrenched and outdated “one drop” rule from centuries ago, a practice that identifies and segregates people with the slightest African blood.
Harris herself has explicitly said that she doesn’t want to choose one identity over the other, but wishes to identify as simply American. However, from her childhood, when she was bused to another school district as a part of a desegregation plan, to her whole career as a politician where her Blackness has been a topic of contention, her racial identities have been at the center stage of public discourse.
We are far from being past Trump’s obscure obsession with birtherism, which has resurfaced again. In a news conference on Thursday, Trump wrongfully said that, “I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” It was a decade ago when he spread another race-based conspiracy theory that sowed mistrust in the background of another politician of color: President Obama.
Unfortunately, in today’s America, the reality is that anti-Blackness and the controversies of a biracial identity will continue to surface during the campaign trail.
The year 2020 has exposed the fact that most of America still doesn’t have the language or knowledge to speak about difficult racial topics, nor admit to the extreme level of white supremacy that still exists. Amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, hate crimes against Asian Americans have been at an ultimate high. Pundits (and our own President) have referred to Covid-19 as the “Wuhan flu,” “Chinese flu,” and “Kung flu.” In the following months, the brutal killing of George Floyd mobilized hundreds and thousands of people to protest against the overt racism and mistreatment against the BIPOC community.
Against this backdrop, we cannot afford not to explore the nuances of Kamala Harris’ identity and what her vice presidency would mean at the time in history we are at right now. Just like Barack Obama’s presidential win in 2008 was an unthinkable achievement, Kamala Harris’ hopeful VP win will illuminate similar sentiments for years to come. Over the next few months and years, the meaning of being an American in the 21st century must fundamentally develop into a new kind of paradigm.
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There can be no discussion of the year 2020 without the mention of the name George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who was brutally murdered at the hands of Derek Chauvin and three other police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota this past May. And while George Floyd did not ask to be martyred, his brutal and untimely death awakened the world, and was undoubtedly the inciting incident for what many are calling the civil rights movement of 2020. Although it’s tough to say definitively if the uprisings we’ve seen this year can be compared to the civil rights movement of the 1960s (as that movement tenaciously lasted for more than 10 years), it is fair to say that the Black Lives Matter movement is certainly moving in that direction. And if, in fact, we are headed down that historic route, it would absolutely be because of the bold, radical, unapologetic voices guiding us, leading us down the path to revolution.
It is no secret that black women and femmes have played a central role in the current Black Lives Matter movement—after all, it was a 17-year-old Black woman, Darnella Frazier, who bravely filmed George Floyd’s death, providing the world with the concrete video footage that made the misconduct surrounding his murder indisputable. But Black women and femmes have always had a unique perspective into structural injustice, probably because they have always been at the receiving end of most of it. Black women’s rights and interests routinely take a back seat to those of white women and cis black men. As such, you may have heard (whether directly from the source, Malcolm X, or indirectly from a pretty good source, Beyoncé) that “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman.” And perhaps it is because of this regular disrespect that Black women and femmes have sought to reclaim agency and use their voices to speak.
Over the past few months, Black women and femmes from all industries have been using their social media platforms to mobilize and educate the masses, creating a revolution for the digital age. They are leading the anti-racism conversation by saying what many people don’t have the courage to say; pushing the boundary and not accepting performative or shallow attempts at change; ensuring that the revolution will be televised (via Instagram), and that it will be inclusive and intersectional. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some of the Black women and femmes that I follow who regularly challenge me to learn and do better—I highly recommend you consider following them as well.
Sonya Renee Taylor, IG (@sonyareneetaylor)
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The viral video of Haley challenging her racist parents has gone viral for Folks inspired by her desire to stand up to her parents and advocate for Black people. However, Haley missed the mark and my hunch is most white folks do. STOP arguing with your white family about Black people. START talking about the sickness that is whiteness and how you and them have ingested it. White people talk about people of color so that they don’t have to deal with themselves and the culture and systems whiteness has created inside them. White people it is time to talk about WHITENESS and not about Black folks. #indefenseofblacklives #whitesupremacymustfall #whitestalkaboutwhiteness #healyourwhiteness #blacklivesmatter
If you are like me, you first encountered Sonya Renee Taylor back in June after a video of hers went viral. The video was in response to another viral video on Tik Tok, which featured a well-intentioned yet slightly misguided teen attempting to have “the anti-racism talk” with her family. While most of the internet was applauding Haley for having any semblance of a talk with her family at all, Sonya Renee Taylor’s response video challenged us all to think more critically about what exactly it was that Haley and her family were debating: “Haley was arguing with her parents about whether or not Black people were worthy of life. The fact that that is a conversation is the problem.” Taylor was able to shift the conversation from the localized issue of Black lives simply mattering (a conversation that really shouldn’t be a conversation at all) to the more comprehensive, structural issue: “the delusions of white supremacy.” And that, in a nutshell, is Sonya Renee Taylor’s enthrall—she has the wonderfully unique ability to shed light on matters that challenge and defy the obvious perspective. In addition to her keen insights concerning racism, blackness, and white supremacy, she also commits to spreading discourse surrounding gender, fatphobia, and radical self love. So if you are looking to learn, be challenged, and pick up some lessons on how to love yourself radically and without apology, you must dive into the work of Sonya Renee Taylor and follow her on Instagram.
Noname, Twitter (@noname)
if we believe black lives matter, we must also believe capitalism needs to be destroyed. as long as that system is in place and maintained by powerful elites, black people will die forever.
— 🌱 (@noname) July 26, 2020
Admittedly, it sort of feels weird telling you to follow Noname, because her whole thing is that we should divest from structural systems, celebrity culture being one of them. With that being said… you should follow Noname. Noname has been making music and uplifting POC interests and voices for years now, but she gained mainstream traction this past year. She’s been a dominant voice in the digital Black liberation conversation, regularly challenging her audience to read, learn, and think for themselves. What’s most compelling about Noname’s Twitter presence is she uses it as a means to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. You can find her calling out imperialism, the industrial prison complex, and the patriarchy; but, you can also find her calling herself out, owning past mistakes and gaps of knowledge she had before she learned better. As she poignantly points out, “growth is an embarrassing yet necessary part of the process.”
Perhaps Noname’s biggest digital moment occurred this past June, when rapper J. Cole thought it would be constructive to derail from the movement and drop a tremendously odd single, accusing Noname of using a “queen tone” and thinking “ better than” him and other rappers in her efforts to speak up against structural oppression on Twitter. Noname’s eloquent retort came in the form of a 1 minute and 10 second song, the thesis essentially being: “he really ’bout to write about me when the world is in smokes?” With concision and flair, Noname defended herself while effortlessly redirecting the conversation back to the serious issues at hand. Noname uses her Twitter presence in a similar way, calling out problematic mainstream pop culture while consistently shedding light on critical societal issues. So if you want to be a part of her “new vanguard,” follow Noname on Twitter and consider joining her book club.
Ericka Hart, IG (@ihartericka)
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“In our culture privacy is often confused with secrecy. Open, honest, truth-telling individuals value privacy. We all need spaces where we can be alone with thoughts and feelings – where we can experience healthy psychological autonomy and can choose to share when we want to. Keeping secrets is usually about power, about hiding and concealing information.” -bell hooks ⠀ I have been so weary with this new wave of positing that “call outs” are harmful. In my classrooms, I have always contested with this logic – when you make a suggestion that things shouldn’t be called out- who are you protecting? I don’t know about y’all, but I come from a world that loves a secret. bell hooks in All About Love talks about our desire to keep secrets can be linked to slavery- an institution built on a lie, human traffickers lied, enslaved people had to lie to stay safe, institutions lie about what really happened, white washed history lies. ⠀ It’s revolutionary for secrets to be told. To call a thing a thing, rather than bury it in activism or Broadway. I have been apart of many organizing spaces/non profits etc that claimed radical and love, but resisted transparency. These two things can’t exist at the same time. ⠀ We don’t have a call out culture, we have an abuse protection culture. And that is the essence of white supremacy. ⠀ Thank you @jewel_thegem and @thechubbygoddess for the realest most healing IG live I’ve ever watched. Please go follow them and PAY THEM.
I wish I could say that I’ve had the pleasure of following and engaging with Ericka Hart’s content long before this year, but alas, I, too, fell victim to bandwagon culture, and only discovered this dope account this past May. A self-proclaimed “racial/social/gender justice disruptor,” “sex educator,” and “breast cancer survivor,” Ericka Hart uses their social media platform to cover tons of ground on the journey to liberation and is, by far, one of the most engaging accounts I follow. Ericka Hart’s social media presence is unique in that their dialogue concerning social justice is dynamic—not only do they foster conversations that discuss plain truths about race and Blackness, but they also add unique depth to the discussion by examining matters of colorism and ableism. However, what specifically drew me to Ericka Hart’s account was their advocacy for the protection and uplifting of Black lives that exist beyond the scope of cis Black men. They were a dominant voice in May insisting that we not only demand justice for George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, but for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, Tony McDade, a Black trans man, and countless other Black women and trans folks that have been murdered at the hands of injustice. I, myself, am constantly challenged by Ericka Hart, as they constantly provide the reminder that the revolution cannot be complete or effective if it does not seek to liberate all Black lives. Ericka Hart’s Instagram presence is also a healthy one to follow because they also use it as a platform to celebrate Black joy and Black love—regularly posting content with their partner, Ebony. It’s a radical reminder that the Black story is not one of plight but one of joy and abundance. So do yourself a favor and follow Ericka Hart.
Ziwe, IG (@ziwef)
One of the most powerful adages that has come out of the last couple of months is “the revolution has many lanes.” And I think it’s safe to say that the lane of the revolution that’s “activism through humor” has been monopolized by writer and comedian, Ziwe Fumudoh. Hosting a weekly show on Instagram Live, Ziwe attracts crowds in the thousands as they eagerly watch as she talks with notable people—predominantly white people—about race in America and skillfully baits them into an incorrect, often cringeworthy answer. What’s most fascinating about Ziwe’s show is that her practice of “baiting” really isn’t baiting at all—she just asks questions and simply waits for answers. Without fail, and despite days of preparation and sometimes even tangible notecards, guests will always say the wrong thing—revealing that even the most well-prepared, well-intentioned white people have some kind of implicit bias that they need to reckon with. Previous guests have included infamous white women like Caroline Calloway, Alison Roman, and Alyssa Milano, but Ziwe has also interviewed people of other races, like Jeremy O. Harris, forcing him to discuss his use of Black women’s bodies on stage in his seminal work, Slave Play. At the end of every interview, Ziwe asks her guest what the audience has been wondering the whole time: why the hell did you agree to come on this show? And the guest’s answer is almost always the same: part of doing the work is being made to feel uncomfortable and humbling yourself in order to learn. And that’s the Ziwe influence—she’s created a public platform for those willing to be challenged and learn, while allowing her audience to heal through community and catharsis as they watch the process take place. If you’re not familiar with Ziwe, please join us in the year 2020 and give her a follow!
Rachel Cargle, IG (@rachel.cargle)
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A quick mid week sermon. • If your only goal is to “break the glass ceiling” consider who all those shards of glass will be falling on if you’re not bringing the most marginalized women with you. • Listen to me closely: if your feminism simply means “getting even” with white men it’s not ever going to be an intersectional, inclusive and justice based movement. • Drop a comment or emoji below and let me know you HEAR me. I need you to hear me. • #feminism #womanism #glassceiling #womensrights #womanhistory #womenshistorymonth #quarantine #dogsofinstagram #catsofinstagram #pnwonderland #howdarling #teachersofinstagram #boymom #taylorswift
If there is any account that I am 90% certain you’ve encountered over the past few months, it’s Rachel Cargle’s—and it should be Rachel Cargle’s, as she uses her platform predominantly as a means for education and activism. Upon scrolling through her IG feed, one of the first things of note is that her academic and mobilization efforts far precede this year’s events. Cargle has been guiding the conversation on race and womanhood in support of the revolution for years, even though many of us have only come around recently to receive her words. She regularly promotes the work of “unlearning” through learning, and curates monthly reading lists and lectures via her online platform The Great Unlearn (a patreon you should subscribe to!).
But what sets Rachel Cargle apart from other activists is that a central part of her work is providing tools and resources for her audience to ensure that learning doesn’t stop at required reading, but is further translated into action. For example, when much of the world was posting open letters to their schools, universities, and workplaces to expose them for unjust practices and racist ideals, Rachel Cargle took to her Instagram account to take it one step further: providing her audience with a template for how they, too, can hold the institutions in their lives accountable for structural injustice. In addition to these accountability templates, she also curated a 30-day Do the Work challenge and posted tangible ways to decolonize your bookshelf, continuing the idea that activism must be combined with action in order to really effect change and mobilize a revolution. So if you’re looking to become a student in the masterclass on effective activism, follow Rachel Cargle on Instagram.
A prevailing question on the minds and lips of many this past year has been: “How long will this movement last?” “Is this movement just a moment?” But it’s been three months since the murder of George Floyd, and the movement is still prospering. While the momentum has, naturally, oscillated, its heartbeat is still strong. Why? Because we have leaders: Black women and femmes, the new generation of activists—our new vanguard—who have committed themselves to the endurance of this movement. While it may be easy at times to be defeatist and feel overcome and overwhelmed by how far we have to go, optimism lies in the comfort that we are being led in this revolution by some of the brightest, most talented minds out there. And we can access all of them through the proximity of our smartphones. We simply have no choice but to stan these women and femmes (and send them some coin to pay them for their labor).
Images: Angelo Moleele / Unsplash; sonyareneetaylor, ihartericka, ziwef, Rachel.cargle / Instagram; Noname / Twitter
As we all know, Michelle Obama literally could do no wrong – she is strong as hell, brilliant, and basically America’s mom. On top of all of that (and in spite of it), she’s relatable as f*ck. From her giving Trump side-eye at his inauguration to starting a podcast in quarantine, America’s favorite first lady is truly one of us.
In the latest episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast, Obama opened up about something that many of us are feeling (at least I am) these days. During a conversation with journalist Michele Norris, Obama talks about how she has found herself “dealing with some form of low-grade depression” over the last few months. “Not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife, and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting.”
Michelle specifically cited the heightened racial tensions as a factor of her depression, “I have to say, that waking up to the news, waking up to how this administration has or has not responded, waking up to, yet another, story of a Black man or a Black person somehow being dehumanized, or hurt or killed, or, falsely accused of something, it is exhausting. And it, it has led to a weight that I haven’t felt in my life, in, in a while.”
In describing her symptoms, the first lady talked about having difficulty sleeping or waking up in the middle of the night. She said, “you know, I’ve gone through those emotional highs and lows that I think everybody feels, where you just don’t feel yourself.” She said, “there’s been, uh, a week or so where I had to surrender to that, and not be so hard on myself. And say, you know what, you’re just not feeling that treadmill right now.”
All of this is not only normal but increasingly widespread. A recent CDC pulse survey reported that one out of three Americans is experiencing some level of depression or anxiety, up from one out of ten last year. Feeling dread and concern about the state of America and our government is not a new thing either. Last year Michelle Goldberg wrote an op-ed for the New York Times about democracy grief. In it, she discussed how watching the institutions that we trust to protect us fail to do so can impact psychological health.
In difficult times, I like to ask myself: WWMOD (obviously that stands for what would Michelle Obama do). Because she always comes through, Michelle gave us some insight into how she deals with her low-grade depression during the quarantine.
“For Barack and I, we’ve lived outside of the norm of regular life for quite some time,” Michelle said, “what we’ve learned early on in the White House is that in order to stay sane and to feel like the human you once were is that you have to have a schedule and a routine.”
In addition to establishing a routine, the Obama family has been working on puzzles together and having card game tournaments. They’re also spending some time outside and trying to eat dinner together as a family. Stars: they’re just like us.
While I highly recommend listening to the whole podcast episode yourself, finding a sense of positivity boils down to self-awareness and focusing on what brings you to a good place. As Michelle said, “make sure that you all are listening to your spirits and to your bodies through this period. And when you need a moment to recharge, take it and do not feel guilty about needing to take that break.”