Over the past few months, the world watched as political discourse seemingly amassed even more grounding within mainstream media as well as a myriad of popular platforms. Amidst the Covid-19 crisis, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, as well as the upcoming election day, it is unsurprising that more and more people are tuning in & attempting to actively educate and involve themselves on such matters.
For Gen-Z, discussion about these events has spread more and more wildly, with TikTok one of the biggest platforms used for this. TikTok has managed to become a symbol of more than just another means of procrastination or escapism – it is one of resistance, justice, and a passion to redefine societal values and act to provoke change. Only in June, did they see themselves intermingled with politicians at the presidential level; a campaign to book tickets to President Donald Trump’s Tulsa rally – and never show up – succeeding, and serving as a reminder that this generations youth are not to be underestimated. The amalgamation of stan culture and political rhetoric was an unprecedented move for many who observed it. However, with the sheer volumes of teens today determined to promote progressive ideals, it is one that we most likely won’t have seen the last of just yet. Amongst the many teens on TikTok using their platforms as a form of activism is Jake Dugger. With over 110k followers on the platform to date and counting, he actively continues to defy the bigotry and prejudice he encounters.
Journey into Activism & Social Justice Movements
As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, Jake’s involvement in activism is one not only stemming from the environment around him, but also his personal experiences. Raised in a white, conservative town, access and exposure to diverse points of view was a rarity. However, under the repressive attempts to force Jake to simply regurgitate the opinions of his community and align himself with his parent’s political opinion – Jake chose to honour that which he believed was wholly moral, just and the true path to a unified people. Speaking on the hatefulness he was often confronted with in his youth, Jake said:
“Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted equality for everyone. When I was in elementary school, I couldn’t understand why people were so hateful and discriminative. I felt there was no way to justify ignorance. I was young, but I was aware enough to realize hate was unnecessary and unjust.”
With Trump’s rise to power throughout his presidency, the negative influence of the values he repeatedly upholds on marginalised communities is one clear to see; even when met with dissent, Trump firmly holds onto that which ensure his position is secure. Managing to garner a significant following on TikTok, Jake regularly uses his platform to raise awareness and educate his followers to challenge these beliefs which he believes often are basic human rights violations.
Beyond the US, Jake is passionate about ensuring he uses his privilege to speak out and amplify the voices of those often silenced, such as the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the recent explosion in Lebanon. To reiterate his own words:
“Fight for the ones who cannot.”
The Influence of TikTok
they’ll cry if they mess up a dog’s pronouns but scream at you when you ask them to use yours correctly♬ original sound - tauruswhore
As aforementioned, TikTok has become more than just an app to entertain. It has become a catalyst for change, with users such as Jake using their platform as a form as activism. For Jake, TikTok has been a reminder of the imperative nature of activism; to have the privilege to truly help people is one that makes him feel obligated “to keep up the momentum” and continue to educate more and more individuals. Learning from other inspiring activists on TikTok with similar goals, Jake has managed to have access to new information and bring this to light – this in turn, influencing his activism as a whole.
However, as with any other platforms, TikTok is not always a peaceful, safe haven where everyone holds the same views. Criticism and bigotry will always exist, and Jake uses this to fuel his activism and educate others even more. Speaking on this, he said:
“You can’t always change someone’s set views and opinions, but you can voice your own to them. You can help them learn optimism and how important social justice is.”
Like the push for Jake to adopt his parents’ political opinions as he grew up, Jake has seen a similar phenomenon in the youth of today, where they prefer to passively stick with what they are taught without question. In terms of activism, he believes “that is why it is so important to educate and advocate.”
Black Lives Matter
WORMS. FOR. BRAINS.♬ original sound - tauruswhore
Over the past few months, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has been gaining a momentous amount of traction. Media outlets and leadership figures have been forced to finally acknowledge the clear fissures within society, whether this is in terms of opportunities black people have or the deep-rooted, systemic racism they consistently have experienced in all areas. Not only has TikTok allowed Jake to be able to connect with black, fellow creators, subsequently meaning he could amplify their voices and experiences, but it's also given him a platform to educate and spread awareness to BLM. Whether this is through teachings about allyship, spreading petitions, having uncomfortable conversations with others, or the value of using your platform, the app has become an accessible means to involving yourself in activism. To those wanting to follow in his footsteps, he gave a valuable insight into activism:
“My advice for the social justice warriors longing for change is, no matter how big or how small your platform may be, use it. Self-educate on social issues, and then start educating your friends, family, and peers. Have uncomfortable conversations about systemic oppression. Have those conversations until they are no longer uncomfortable. Most importantly, remember to be empathetic. Don’t expect anything in return. Use your privilege to speak up for those who cannot.”
He also stressed the importance of ensuring that your activism isn’t performative. A key example of this is ‘blackout Tuesday’, taking place on June 2nd. Millions of people around the world took to Instagram to post a black square, vowing to remain silent on that day, with many of their posts, the first time they recognised the BLM movement and George Floyd’s death. While progress and recognition are positive things, when more people posted on the #blackouttuesday tag than signed the petition for George Floyd, it is safe to assume that a significant majority of posts were solely to uphold a moral appearance. In terms of making sure that you can go beyond this, Jake advises people continually use their platform to amplify black voices and share petitions, donation resources and more – “It is so important to remember that BLM is not a trend. Black lives matter today, tomorrow, next week, next month, and forever. If we let our fire burn out, it will not lead to change. So, it is important that we keep that flame lit until we see real prevalent change.”
The Future of Activism for the Young
With so many more young people coming to join the fight for change globally, what is the future for young activists? From Jake’s perspective, he genuinely believes that the young can change the world. As a collective, managing to resist indoctrination, being able to continuously self-educate, and acting through protesting, petitions & donations is something that he points out is a sure sign of how the youth of today constantly go above and beyond to ensure that our discriminatory society doesn’t remain. He also reminded any young individuals that “to be close-minded is to be complicit” – we all have a moral obligation to resist and fight against oppression, and like Jake, not succumb to perceived pressure and stop trying to create change.
However, as is with every fight – it can be a difficult one. And for Jake, he hopes to see a future where the fight is no longer necessary; a future where discriminatory views aren’t a generationally upheld way of thinking. Where leaders truly show what it is to be a leader, and unify our society to be an equal, loving place. Lastly, he hopes to see that systemic oppression no longer causes individuals to live in fear.
Advice for Young Activists
For anybody wanting to learn more and become more involved in activism, it can often be an intimidating realm due to the colossal amount there is to learn and plethora of different resources you can access. However – everybody starts somewhere. Activism is an important privilege we must make use of to cultivate the world we want, where everybody is given the same rights and acceptance of all isn’t an unimaginable feat. When speaking to Jake, he gave advice that will undoubtedly help anyone on their journey to educate themselves and spread awareness of these important issues:
“It is so important to be empathetic, and authentic at all times when being an activist. Never speak for others but listen and engage in taking action to end oppression. There is a fine line between speaking up and speaking for. Use your privilege to speak for the ones who cannot, but also remember to leave room to listen. One thing to remember is to keep your foot on the gas. Never stop fighting. If less people continue to fight for social justice, stand firm in your beliefs. If someone discredits or invalidates your activism, remind them how crucial social justice is.”
A Thank You To Jake & Where You Can Follow Him
On behalf of the Teen Magazine, thank you so much to Jake for sharing his inspiring experiences with activism and important social justice movements. We hope to continue to see you inspire and be involved in bigger and better things! To keep up with Jake, you can follow him on TikTok @tauruswhore and Instagram @jlduggs.