Amid all the discussion and debate about the inequalities and dangers faced by black and brown individuals in the United States, the question arises: what can I do about it?
It is overwhelming to look at the endless accounts of police brutality, justice system failures, blatant and subtle racism, and white denial. When feelings of helplessness begin to wash over me, I have to take action. These actions are usually not big, but they are steps towards the larger cause.
I work full time, keep myself busy with some side gigs, am newly married, have been sick for several months, and am learning how to live with someone new—but the need to participate in this movement burns inside of me.
With such a busy schedule, some days my “action steps” look like me gobbling up articles from Truth Dig, Democracy Now, Police the Police, Shaun King, and others and then reposting them for my Facebook friends to see. What good does this do? My friends have posted articles that caused me to pause and contemplate—so I post with the hope that mine will do that same for someone else.
Facebook sharing isn’t the only way to be proactive—there are many other social media avenues that can help spread the word. It also helps to follow the accounts of organizations that are organizing events, planning protests, and starting nationwide movements. (Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Black Lives Matter, their region specific social media accounts (i.e. Atlanta’s Stop Mass Incarceration Network chapter’s twitter: StopMassIncNet-ATL).
But what do you do with the information these articles communicate? You can’t stay silent! Talk about it. I love starting conversations with people—my husband, family, friends, co-workers, or complete strangers. It doesn’t take much for the conversation to turn towards social justice—hearing where they are, sharing your perspective and ideas, discussing the movements and problems in the country, and finding community (or not). Remember, by sharing about the need for social justice, people can never again claim ignorance about the problem. Plus, given time, they may come to recognize the seriousness of injustice and become activists, too!
Another way I try to stay aware is to notice when police pull someone over or detain them. I look at the person’s skin color, keep track of how the situation is being handled, and have my phone ready “just in case.” You never know when you’re going to be a witness to police misusing power.
You’re probably wondering what BIG STEPS you can take. Look at the sites of the organizations that are in the fight for equality and see what’s happening in your area, an hour away from you, four hours away, or even further. See if anyone wants to go with you, plan the trip, and go prepared for the unexpected to happen. And use social media to talk about it.
I’ve shared a little bit of what I do (social media posting, talking with people, etc.). However, my husband and I have done some other things, too. Last fall, A traveled to NYC for Rise Up October, organized by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. It was a multi-day event with big names, families who have lost parents, spouses, partners, children, cousins, siblings, etc. to police brutality. There was a sit-in protest against one of the worst prisons in the country, and police made arrests. While I wasn’t able to attend, it was my first exposure to big-time protesting.
Through that event, we learned about a regional event in Charlotte, which isn’t too far from where we live. We attended, heard stories from family members who had lost someone, whether to death or prison, and began planning events at colleges and universities in the Southeast. Excitingly, I got to plan the No More Stolen Lives Tour event at the University of South Carolina. While not a large event, the people who were there were supportive and excited about the cause.
For those of you who live in bigger areas, start Googling and find out what’s going on. For those of you who aren’t in a big area, see what’s happening in cities near you. But, whatever you do, don’t feel that you are unable to contribute.
This is not a popular cause to join. When you find like-minded people, bask in the community for the time you have it. Most people think there are no real problems. However, as Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted the Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam executive committee: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”
* Also, if you are interested in donating money to organizations that use the funds to further the mission of social justice and equality, you can do so at these links: