In the last month, MEDIAGIRLS ran our Anti-Racism Workshop: “How Can Girls Help Take Down Racism with Instagram and TikTok?” We were flooded with questions at the end of the workshop, which we ran twice, and were not able to answer all of them due to time constraints. But the questions were thoughtful and important, and we are addressing them in a two-part series on our blog (yesterday we published Part 1). We appreciate you seeking more information so you can step up in your activism and below our Education Outreach Manager Amanda Mozea shares her insights and observations.
How do you make a friend realize that they are being racist or sexist without hurting their feelings and losing their friendship?
Firstly, I think it’s really important to remember that your friend might not know that they are being hurtful or offensive. I know that sounds odd (how could they not know?), but when I talk to my friends about issues of race – for example – I have to constantly remind myself that they are not meaning for their comments to be racist. They just don’t know better and this is an opportunity for me to educate them if they are open.
So, the next step is speaking up! Always, when you are talking to someone about behavior that you found hurtful, use “I” statements. Say things like, “When you said ________, I felt ___________.” Or, “When you say _________, I hear _________ and it makes me feel ___________.” Using “I” statements roots your feelings in your experience of what your friend said and makes it much harder to dismiss. It also sounds less accusatory than saying something like, “What you just said is so offensive” or “You are being a racist!”).
If your friend is responsive to what you have said, that’s great! If your friend is upset by what you said, try restating that you are not trying to be mean or hurtful; rather, you are trying to explain how you perceived her/his comments and how the comment caused you harm and might cause harm to other people. On this note, I have noticed that a lot of people get confused about the difference between impact and intent. Your friend might say, “Well, I didn’t mean for you to take it that way,” to dismiss what you have told them. But, knowing the difference between impact and intent means that, even if someone does not mean to be offensive (intent), the impact of what the person is saying can be. If you hear something like this, you can say, “I know you didn’t mean for your comments to be hurtful, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t.”
What should you do if you see something racist on Instagram/TikTok? For example, a friend of a friend says “#AllLivesMatter” or “#BlueLivesMatter” on your friend’s post? When is it worth discussing, and when should you just walk away?
It really depends on your relationship with the person who posted the comment. If you don’t know them, calling them out in the comments – in front of everyone who scrolls past – won’t change that person’s mind. All that will do is exhaust you emotionally.
If you consider this friend of a friend to be someone who you care about, try messaging privately. Ask what they mean by their statement. Explain why their statement was hurtful or wrong. But, only get into this one-on-one discussion if you are willing to put in the emotional work that it takes to engage with someone who has views that may be harmful to you or are different from yours.
If I witness racism from teachers at my school, what do I do?
This is, sadly, a scenario that many students have had to face. The teaching profession is overwhelmingly white. For many young Black people and young people of color, some of the most hurtful incidences of racism that they experience have been from their teachers. This is made even worse by the fact that teachers have a lot of power within the classroom. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking up in the moment, here are some other things that I would encourage you to do.
First, write everything down. It is always best to have as many details as possible (witnesses, the time, the context, etc.) to ensure that, when you do speak up, you are heard. Next, go to the school administration or department head and report the incident – writing an email is best so that there is a record of you organizing the meeting. If nothing happens as a result of this meeting, follow up! All students have a right to feel safe in the classroom. The administration or department head or whomever should be able to tell you exactly what they are doing to ensure that such an incident will never happen again.
If this feels like too much for you, that’s okay! Go to a parent or guardian and ask them to help you bring what you saw to the attention of the school administration. Witnessing racism in the classroom is always unacceptable.
Is it wrong to praise celebrities for supporting Black Lives Matter?
This is a complicated question! Here’s my short answer: I almost never praise celebrities for supporting BLM.
Now for the long answer. Do you follow the Kardashian-Jenners? They are a family of white people whose success is directly tied to their appropriation of Black culture and Black aesthetics. Kylie Jenner is famous for her (cosmetically enhanced) big lips – a trait that is typically associated with Black women, but is much more famous on her white face. Kim Kardashian is famous for her (cosmetically enhanced) curvy figure – a body type that is typically associated with Black women, but – again – is much more famous on her white body. In my opinion, it should be an obligation for these celebrities to say Black Lives Matter. It should be an obligation for these celebrities to be donating, raising money, and spreading awareness. It’s the very least they can do after all that they have quite literally built their brand off Black fashion, Black aesthetic, and Black culture.
Do you listen to K-pop? Bruno Mars? Billie Eilish? Ariana Grande? Post Malone? Eminem? These are all non-Black artists who have become famous for singing in genres of music created by Black people, rocking fashion and personas inspired by Black street style, use African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in their songs and interviews. In my opinion, these artists should not be praised for saying Black Lives Matter. Again, it is the very least they can do as creatives who have benefited so much from Black artists.
So many celebrities benefit directly from Black culture, Black aesthetics, Black vernacular, Black musical genres that almost always, I don’t think they should be praised for doing the bare minimum of supporting Black lives.
But, occasionally, there are celebrities who go above and beyond in their support of Black Lives Matter. They put their money behind the movement, highlight Black artists, shine the spotlight on Black activists, and bring attention to inequities in their industry. These celebrities are deserving of praise. They are using their positions of privilege to demand much-needed change and be a part of the solution. Celebrities like this – think: Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, John Cena, Angelina Jolie – are putting their money and influence where their consciences are.
Amanda Mozea is the Education Outreach Manager of MEDIAGIRLS. She graduated from Harvard College, where she concentrated in Social Studies with a focus field titled “Racial Inequality in Contemporary America” and a secondary in Ethnicity, Migration, and Rights. Throughout college, Amanda mentored young girls in Boston’s South End through the program Strong Women Strong Girls. Amanda is a firm believer in the power of media to enact change. While a student at Harvard, Amanda created a multiracial student photo gallery to bring attention to Harvard’s lack of institutional support for multiracial students. The galleryhas expanded into the website: http://we-are-other.com. In addition to her zeal for female empowerment and media studies, Amanda is an avid fan of the Blues, travel, and food from all corners of the globe. You can contact Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like this post? Check out Part 1 of this series!