Show up to any of the many rallies happening across the nation, protesting against President Donald Trump and his various heinous executive orders, and you will likely come across a sign bearing a quote from South African civil rights leader Desmond Tutu that reads, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Over the last couple days, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Jennifer Lopez were among the many celebrities that refused such neutrality and voiced their vehement opposition to Trump and/or his executive orders halting immigration and banning Muslims. Obviously being a celebrity against Trump isn't a unique circumstance—see: this entire awards season, Hollywood in general—but for three of the most successful, prolific, and visible female celebrities of color to openly criticize our president and show support for those most vulnerable in this regime feels particularly significant.
All three singers voiced their support through social media. On Sunday Lopez posted a protest image to Instagram with a caption that reminded her 57.5 million followers that America was indeed founded by immigrants:
Minaj, who was criticized in the past for remaining silent on the Orlando shooting only to tweet about a new song three days later, tweeted a heartfelt message to her 20.7 million followers:
And on Saturday night, Rihanna tweeted the most strongly worded attack on Trump of all to her 69.5 million followers:
Again, plenty of other celebrities also tweeted and Instagrammed their concern regarding the Muslim ban. But as a woman of color, seeing these incredibly prominent women of color—two of whom are immigrants themselves—stand up to our presidential regime is incredibly validating to me.
Jennifer Lopez—one of the highest paid female celebrities and one of the most influential Latinx people in American pop culture—speaking out against Trump’s immigration order is pretty powerful. Nicki Minaj—one of the most influential female rappers of all time, born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago—raising her voice is powerful. Barbados-born Rihanna—named literally the most marketable celebrity, a music and fashion icon, the very first black woman to be the face of Dior—opposing Trump is powerful.
In dire times like these, when even the most neutral-minded and cautious of us are forced to take a stand, it’s invaluable to see your immediate community express the same values you do. It’s encouraging to see friends and family support those whose very existence is under attack and fight against the antagonizing forces that are attempting to strip people of their humanity. But it can be equally comforting to know that celebrities—these borderline mythological people—are also being affected by the things we’re affected by.
Like standing in a giant crowd of people chanting the same thing you are, there’s a sense of reassurance there, a reminder that your fears and efforts aren’t local—they’re tied to something larger. (Though, obviously, merely feeling encouraged by a celebrity tweet isn’t enough—go fucking protest!)
As a woman of color, it’s validating enough to merely see the world’s most successful women of color like Rihanna, Nicki, and J Lo, enjoy what they have worked so hard for, knowing that they have had to overcome much more than the average celebrity. Maybe they could do more. But to know that they understand the implications of our presidents’ orders, that they are affected by it, and that they’re not going to stand for it, is all the more heartening and motivating
It's also powerful because women of color are so often overlooked for the activism that white women are constantly congratulated and credited for. For example, following the Women's March on Washington—an enormous feat organized by three women of color (and one that, despite sending a strong message to the new president, witnessed several instances of intersectional erasure by white feminists)—countless headlines boasted of the celebrity turnout to the event. Many of them excluded non-white women:
Lena is the story. Katy is the story. ScarJo is the story. Meanwhile, women of color like Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae, Gina Rodriguez, Mindy Kaling, America Ferrera, Uzo Aduba, Chrissy Tiegen, Jurnee Smollett-Bell—all of whom showed up to the very same marches—were left out of many of these headlines. This erasure of women of color from the coverage of activism, particularly when the battle against Trump’s racist and xenophobic orders actually directly affects women of color, is yet another example of white supremacy. It's honestly also par for the course.
Don't forget that this oversaturation of whiteness takes a real, documented toll on the self-esteem of people of color. We need to see ourselves in media more, whether it's through fictional characters or through an acknowledgement of the empathetic, powerful activist movements we're leading. Giving people like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez and all of the other prominent women of color who are resisting Trump their due would be an important way to start doing that.