President Donald Trump has been making a lot of decisions lately surrounded by other middle-aged, white men. When he signed an executive order on Friday halting the U.S. refugee resettlement program and blocking the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries, social media influencer and strategist Anna Russett wanted to make sure his voice wasn’t the only one being heard.
Russett, 25, issued a callout Monday night through her Snapchat profile, “bananapotatos,” and invited her audience to send in short videos expressing their thoughts and reactions to what’s come to be known as the “Muslim ban.” Her audience is largely comprised of teenage girls and college-aged women, with a handful of young men and gender fluid individuals, Russett said. And they, too, have something to say.
“Rarely do people take teen girls seriously,” Russett told The Huffington Post. “But their voices are so strong and they have so many opinions and want to do a lot of good for the world.”
Russett posted the callout Monday evening and had received over a thousand videos by Tuesday afternoon, she said.
“I’m a Muslim, and to see this going on in our world is scary and sad,” one girl said.
Another young woman commented: “That Trump identifies with a denomination of Christianity is disgusting because this is not Christ-like.”
Many of those responded from countries outside the U.S., including Ireland, Colombia, El Salvador, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and more. They expressed a range in opinions, from denouncing Trump to saying they felt the president acted with the country’s safety in mind.
“I was really interested in all those opinions,” Russett said, “and in facilitating a conversation in a respectful way, letting these girls listen to each other and really understand where each other is coming from.”
Russett was actively watching and curating the videos back in her Snapchat story on Tuesday, which meant the influencer could choose which voices she wanted to include. Namely, Russett said she wasn’t willing to “give hate a platform.”
Instead, the stories that stood out to her most were the ones with a personal angle. “Hearing very visceral, real accounts of how this is affecting people is really moving and really powerful to hear,” Russett said.
“I want to thank Trump for bringing to light the racists in my high school,” commented one Muslim young woman who said she’d lived through the recent civil war in Libya and emigrated to Canada with her family to escape from violence.
Stories of families being split and travelers turned away at airports and even detained put a human face to the news. And they’re especially important to remember as White House officials attempt to downplay the effects of the executive order.
But more and more, social media users and influencers are taking the administration to task for its discriminatory actions. With public demonstrations like the recent Women’s March, grassroots protests and airport rallies, Russett suggested that the role of influencers and even the average person with a smart phone is more critical than ever.
“For people with a platform right now I do think it’s their responsibility to think about speaking up,” Russett said. But she added the caveat that “anybody who does speak out about current events should have an informed opinion.”