Go Play in Someone Else’s Face, June! 3 Memes That Had Everyone Talking About Social Justice Last Month
Every June, we’re used to celebrating several big events.
No matter who you are in this country, you know about Father’s Day, someone in your family is graduating from school and someone you know is celebrating Pride all month long.
I know Hallmark has got you covered for those celebrations.
But I’d like to turn your attention to several other big moments that, from now on, will define June as a month where everyone has to take a moment and talk about racial equity and mental health.
Here’s a breakdown of the biggest social justice moments of last month and how the Internet responded in memes, tweets and maps.
Naomi Osaka gives herself a break
Just before the month got started, tennis star Naomi Osaka essentially called out sick from the French Open.
Soon after, the Grand Slam committee fined her for skipping her media obligations. Then Osaka said she was going to take some time off the court to take care of her mental health.
In a highly publicized global sport that is sponsored by big corporations and governed by strict rules, this is seen as a big no-no because…hold up — do you understand what Osaka just did? She said “F*** your rules. I’ma do me for a little while.”
What Osaka did is very similar to what other athletes have done when they realized they have a platform to stand up for justice. Her revolutionary act inspired thousands of social media reactions over the days that followed.
My favorite reaction was a tweet by user @RheaBoydMD.
The tweet beautifully captured what this moment meant for every woman of color who has ever felt like her work wasn’t valued.
It seems like the COVID-19 pandemic forced Corporate America to take a serious look at the mental health crisis.
A lot of people have also started to realize that their jobs need them more than they need their jobs.
Osaka proved that it’s OK to prioritize your own well-being over someone else’s profits. The reactions over Osaka’s self-care break proved that sports and social justice go hand in hand.
The big takeaway? More people need to start getting comfortable with telling Corporate America: “F*** your feelings.”
Tulsa wasn’t the only Black massacre
At the start of the month, President Joe Biden, celebrities, business leaders, community activists and local residents gathered in Tulsa, OK, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre.
What happened in Tulsa in 1921 is well known in the Black community. But, if you didn’t grow up learning about Black history, then the story of Black Wall Street probably isn’t on your radar.
Which is why the anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre served as a teaching moment.
Although the Tulsa of today is nothing like it was before, the descendants of the survivors of the massacre still don’t feel whole because there was never any real justice for what a mob of racist white people did to a once all-Black community.
That’s why I love this meme that social media users started sharing on Instagram and Facebook during the first week of June.
The meme, titled “Black Massacres: Pick A Massacre and Research It,” shows a map of the United States and the location and date of the Tulsa Massacre. On the same map, you’re able to see that Tulsa wasn’t the only place in the country where racist white people destroyed Black neighborhoods.
The map is a great way to show everyone that it’s silly to tell Black people to “get over it” when it comes to this country’s racist past.
You don’t need a college degree to see that racism wasn’t just concentrated in one part of the United States or one period of time.
It’s been persistent for years all over.
You also don’t need a college degree to see that these attacks didn’t just wipe out Black neighborhoods. They held many Black families back from obtaining generational wealth.
I want to see more visualizations like this when activists are trying to convince people that it’s not that easy to “get over” years of racial trauma.
The Juneteenth conspiracy theory
On June 15, Congress voted to make Juneteenth a national holiday.
President Biden quickly signed the bill into law, making it the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. This was largely seen as the right thing to do by our government.
A year after the George Floyd murder, our country has been in need of more racial healing. But the speed in which politicians made Juneteenth a holiday had a lot of people questioning the real motive behind the new law.
I especially like how Twitter user @YesAurielle pointed out the irony.
The tweet got more than 5,000 likes and more than 2,500 retweets, and I can see why.
At the same time that Congress was rushing to recognize a special day that celebrates freedom for Black people, politicians have been busy working on many other laws that would take away more freedoms from African Americans.
You know what I took away from this debate? Irony works both ways.
If I had to sum up the biggest lesson that the month of June was trying to tell us, it would be this: Don’t play with people’s emotions, especially when it comes to their money or their days off.