Immediately following the white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally that turned violent in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, many celebrities took to social media to speak out against racism, hatred, and violence. But while these celebrities took a stand after Charlottesville, they have also consistently spoken out against racism and been advocates for global good.
Here are nine celebrities who use their social media influence to promote messages of peace and to fight racism and criticize complacency.
1. Kal Penn
My friends are grandchildren of holocaust survivors & Christian, Hindu & Muslim freedom fighters. We speak so many languages. That's 🇺🇸— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) August 13, 2017
After the tragedy in Charlottesville, actor Kal Penn tweeted to celebrate the diversity of the US and criticize President Trump's hesitation in publicly condemning the white nationalist protesters. Though the president, and some members of his administration, did later condemn the violence, Penn and many others were outraged by the president’s condemnation of “many sides," which was widely interpreted as equating violent white nationalist protesters with the counter-protesters.
Penn is no stranger to activism. Earlier this year he used a racist tweet to launch a fundraising campaign to support Syrian refugees and put Hollywood on blast for relying on racist stereotypes in a series of tweets.
He was also a member of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities under both President Obama and President Trump — until he and all but one other committee member resigned last week in protest of the president’s response to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
2. John Legend
Preserving history doesn't require us glorifying the villain.— John Legend (@johnlegend) August 16, 2017
John Legend not only condemned the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, but continued to speak out against the commemoration of those who advocated for and were key contributors to institutionalized racism.
"I'm concerned about what's happening in America when it comes to race and racism," Legend told TIME. The “Glory” singer also created the FREEAMERICA initiative to end mass incarceration in the US. The US imprisons people at a higher rate than any other country, according to the Washington Post, and the overwhelming majority of those incarcerated are people of color — primarily black and Latinx, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
3. George Takei
When I was 4, racist fear swept America and we were sent to camps. But those who'd learned to hate us later unlearned it. Therein lies hope.— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) August 13, 2017
George Takei, best known for playing Sulu in “Star Trek,” has been a vocal activist for LGBT rights and against racism, and he did not hesitate to speak up in the aftermath of Charlottesville.
What's worse is a president telling a nation that those monuments are beautiful statues instead of symbols of slavery and secession. https://t.co/k0LS7oKd8I— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) August 18, 2017
A Japanese-American, Takei and his family were sent to an internment camp in Arkansas when he was 4 years old; his experience has inspired him to call out racial and political injustice around him.
“The horror of the internment lay in the racial animus the government itself propagated. It whipped up hatred and fear toward an entire group of people based solely on our ancestry,” he wrote in the New York Times. “Consider that today we need merely replace “Japanese-Americans” with “Muslims” for the parallels to emerge.”
I really don't know what to say...but this is terrorism. This is America TODAY...not 40 years… https://t.co/dZ5iHN0h31— Zendaya (@Zendaya) August 12, 2017
The 20-year-old actress and singer is no stranger to racism or controversy. She quickly spoke out against the violence and racism in Charlottesville, but this isn’t the first time she’s used social media to condemn racism.
“I feel like you’re supposed to speak up on issues that you think are important,” she told Us Magazine. In 2015, she took to Instagram to respond to racist remarks made about her hair on the show “Fashion Police.”
The day after the rally in Charlottesville, Zendaya received a Teen Choice Award and used her acceptance to condemn hate and encourage her fans to speak out against injustice.
Zendaya took the stage at the Teen Choice Awards with an important message. pic.twitter.com/n83HmS0maN— AJ+ (@ajplus) August 21, 2017
5. Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo is a #PeopleProtector. Though he has called out racism, even directly calling some politicians out, Ruffalo has not limited his activism to the digital realm.
Last week, he helped lead a protest against President Trump’s response to the Charlottesville tragedy and to honor Heather Heyer who was killed during the rally, according to the Washington Post. Ruffalo has also been an advocate for climate change action.
6. Gabrielle Union
You cannot be an ally & stay silent & complacent in the face oppression/hatred/murder. Interesting to see which "friends" remain silent— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) August 15, 2017
The “Being Mary Jane” actress often posts her take on current events on her Twitter, and the Charlottesville protest was no exception. But she also regularly calls out other instances of injustice on the social media platform.
If only people cared as much about addressing racist, oppressive behavior as they do about their fear of being labeled a racist.. 🤔🤔🤔— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) March 25, 2017
Over the years, she has been an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and against sexual assault.
7. Kumail Nanjiani
Anger seems like a wholly appropriate response to white supremacy.— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) August 15, 2017
Best known for playing programmer Dinesh on “Silicon Valley,” Kumail Nanjiani has a much simpler use for technology in his personal life. He tweeted in response to the racism seen in Charlottesville, but has also been speaking out against racism for a while.
And I know when someone is racist, the fault is theirs and not yours. But, in the moment, it makes you feel flattened, reduced & bullied.— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) February 28, 2016
Nanjiani, who was born in Pakistan and moved to the US at age 18, has used Twitter to share instances of racism he has experienced in Hollywood and while living in LA. The comedian is also totally unafraid to call things like he sees them and infuses biting humor into political commentary on his feed.
8. Kevin Hart
We are better than this people ....Love will forever beat hate. I will not stop loving. I love people of all races damn it— Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real) August 12, 2017
Unlike many other comedians, Kevin Hart doesn’t often talk about race in his stand-up routines. However, he doesn’t shy away from calling out racism in his personal life or on social media. Hart took to Twitter to condemn hate and encourage people to unite instead.
Please talk to your kids & make them understand how disgusting it is to hate a individual because of the color of their skin.— Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real) August 12, 2017
The actor has also been open about racism in Hollywood and even used his stage time at the 2016 Oscars to address it.
“I want to applaud all of the actors and actresses of color that didn’t get nominated tonight. The reason why I say that is because I want them to understand that tonight should not determine the hard work and effort that you put into your craft,” he said. “These problems of today will eventually become problems of the old.”
9. Barack Obama
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion..." pic.twitter.com/InZ58zkoAm— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 13, 2017
The former POTUS shared a photo and Nelson Mandela quote post-Charlottesville, and the tweet nearly broke the Internet. According to Twitter, with more than 4.5 million likes and 1.6 million re-tweets, his is the most liked tweet ever. President Obama spoke out against racism and called for unity in the US throughout his presidency and has vowed to continue working on achieving equality for young men of color in the US.