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Diversifying Your Social Media

In her collection of essays Thick published in 2018, Tressie McMillan Cottom -- professor, sociologist, podcast host, and all around badass Black woman -- mines Twitter for evidence that Black women are as respected by their colleagues as white men are. In the book's final essay, "Girl 6", Cottom uses two well-known white male public intellectuals to illustrate how narrow our focus can be to just voices that reflect ourselves. Of the 320+ people each man follows on Twitter, just 6 are Black women. Six for each -- less than 2% -- as if six is some magical number, just the right amount of color to provide an alternate perspective on the world.

Reviews of our own social media landscapes may, intentionally or not, yield similar results. We are all sometimes guilty of "following" people who are like us, consuming media that reflects ourselves, neglecting to intentionally break out of the echo chambers we have fallen in to. W+iD is here to help.

In addition to the myriad BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) social and political commentators you can follow such as (Tressie McMillan Cottom, Roxane Gay, Melissa Harris Perry, Ibram X. Kendi, Dorothy Roberts, Michelle Alexander, Nicole Hannah Jones, Ava DuVernay and the list goes on and on...), we wanted to highlight here some of the designers of color who are using their craft to build awareness around and advocate for social justice initiatives.


Nicole Linh Anderson was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, attended Carnegie Mellon University (whoop, Pittsburgh connection!), and then moved to LA after graduating in 2015. Her art focuses on "how my perspective exists both separately from, and part of a broader collective memory." Earlier this year, she put out a series of posts graphically explaining social justice education, our relationship to privilege, and our potential spheres of influence to change things. We used her illustration of the "social justice ladder" in our conversations on antiracism back in June. Through her multi-page explanations with ease to follow text and simple graphics, Anderson makes complex topics much easier to engage with.


Rachel Cargle (Instagram @rachel.cargle) and The Great Unlearn (@thegreatunlearn)

Rachel Cargle is an educator, writer, and activist who has taken up Instagram as one of her instructional platforms. In addition to her "self-paced, self-priced learning collective" The Great Unlearn, she uses her Instagram posts to help us all see what is hidden underneath. Every Saturday she posts a private message she's received from a well-intentioned white woman and breaks down all of the unconscious biases and ingrained racism. Each one is a Saturday School Lesson well worth learning.

From Saturday, September 5th:

"1. As someone who has had this conversation virtually for years now I can confidently tell you that this prefaced smiley face emoji is equivalent to things like “Im not racist but…” and ties into the belief that being “nice” automatically means you can’t be racist.


2. The deep desire for white Americans to tokenize successful Black people as a means to bury the realties of systemic racism and push ideologies of merit based achievement have been one of tools of this country since its inception. From the “happy slave” to “but look at Oprah and Obama” these efforts push to reinforce the “American Dream” to Black Americans despite the structural economic and political barriers that exist in our racist society.Tokenism glorifies the exception in order to obscure the rules of the game of success in a capitalist society.” (Source: Dana L Cloud; “Rhetoric of Tokenism”)


3. I constantly astounded by the regurgitated ideas of American history books that there was ever a “graciousness” to U.S. existence even from its very beginnings. Genocide of the indigenous community, slavery, Jim Crow.....we can go on generation after generation. These are the people demanding we “make America great again” — loosely translates make America great again for the white people who didn’t have to deal with accountability.


4. Besides oddly equating blackness to “crime” and “the streets” she turns the conversation away from a political examination of American history and race relations and makes it about Black America’s “skewed moral compass” and that if Black people just act right they would be doing better in this country. Google “Respectability Politics”.


5. After demanding that Black people clean up the mess of American racism she goes back to a virtue signaling language of “we” — similar to the “we are all in this together” language of those who proclaim community yet only show up for the ways they benefit in said community.


6. I....🥴


7. To reference the tweet by Bunmi Laditan: They call them “developing countries” because “countries struggling to recover from being ruthlessly pillaged and systematically destabilized” doesn’t have the same ring."


Admittedly, I don't know this person's race or gender. But they are addressing social and political issues head on with bite-sized, easy to understand, graphically appealing slide shows on everything from critical race theory to suicide prevention to the unrest in Belarus. Each post covers a specific topic with a series of 6-10 slides that break down complex issues into the basics. Drop in anywhere and I dare you to resist clicking through less than half a dozen of these easily digestible contemporary issue lessons. Each post includes the author's source material so you are invited to continue your education on your own.


I met the artist behind these gorgeous portraits of badass (and often little-known) women in our historical and contemporary spheres last year on a trip to New Orleans. The creator of the series, Joey Hartmann-Dow, has a website dedicated to her artwork where she is "exploring themes of connection, vulnerability, gender, and earth relationship" through maps and portraits. But its the Badass Women series that I am HERE FOR. Holidays are around the corner, so pre-order a 2021 calendar for yourself and pick one up for the other women+ in design in your life to celebrate Badass Women all year long.

Who else should we be following and supporting? Post in the comments and let's raise awareness of other women+ of color and allies doing the work and changing the world.

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Kathleen O'Donnell
Kathleen O'Donnell
15 sept 2020

The variety of folks you chose to highlight is really nice - definitely some new discoveries for me! I also highly recommend writer, data journalist, and illustrator @monachalabi She puts big ideas and statistics, many based on topics related to equity and civil rights, into consumable and beautiful works of art.

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