Solution driven steps toward social change
By Brittney M. Walker
Public lynchings like the ones America has witnessed over the last decade (check out Melissa Harris Perry’s recap of the decade) has gained more public attention with the public’s and media’s help.
From the unpunished hunting and execution of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and the cold-blooded murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, to the barbaric attack and murder of father of six Eric Garner, death, injustice and hypocrisy is redefining many Americans’ reality. People are uniting to speak out because #BlackLivesMatter. Not that these events haven’t been happening all along. It just seems as though the public is fed up and the media is giving the dead a voice.
But after the dust has settled from the protests, the riots and the speeches, what can people do next? At the end of the day, freedom, future and human rights are our responsibility. Whether that means cleansing the deadly poisons from within our own souls or taking up arms by educating ourselves, taking over governmental positions or joining the ranks of police forces in order to bring reassurance to our communities. Perhaps there is no one answer, but focused collective movements.
So, I’ve compiled a list of ways individuals can start to make social change:
- Become friends with local law enforcement – Yeah f*ck the police is where many minds are at this point, but at the end of the day, they’ve got guns and friends in court. Instead, be the bigger woman (or man) and visit the police station, introduce yourself to the officers, greet them on the streets and be sure, if you have men in your life, introduce them as well. The theory behind this is that if officers know whom they are protecting, they will be less likely to treat them like ‘other.’
- Volunteer at the local police station – Local law enforcement agencies, especially in high crime areas, are overworked and stretched thin. There isn’t a better opportunity to establish a community presence and authority than from within. By becoming a regular volunteer, there is a chance to become familiar with the officers, the system and enforce a sense of community accountability within the police force by simply being present and aware.
- Attend local community meetings – City council meetings, town hall meetings, community safety meetings, public police meetings – attend any kind of meeting where your voice can be heard or where you can be visible.
- Write letters to local officials – They teach us in grade school to write our senators or whomever it is that can effect change in the community. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m never sure if those letters are ever read, let alone read by the person the letter has been addressed to. But consistency and follow-up could yield attention and a response.
- Join the neighborhood watch – Some of us live in communities where there’s a neighborhood watch. Most of the time, it’s non-brown faces that join. Set aside a little time and those negative stereotypes about the role and join the team. You can make a difference. Others of us live in neighborhoods or cities where these types of groups aren’t established. But who says you can’t go out and patrol your own neighborhood to ensure the children on your block are safe?
- Volunteer and join local political campaigns, groups and orgs – Like I mentioned before, your presence can cause a shift. Being a part of a political group that represents a local leader for example gives you a powerful platform to share your opinion, hold leaders accountable, and influence change in your community.
- Volunteer, work, mentor outside of your community – While it’s never been my position that it’s Black folk’s responsibility to tip toe and tap dance for anyone, apparently there is some hand holding and babying that may need to be done. Being a human should be enough to be treated as a human. However, racial fear is real, which means sometimes humanity plays second fiddle to black skin. So being an example for a whole ethnic group, with or without consent, is what happens when Black people interact with white folk. As a result, it’s nice to force homogeneously white communities into diversity by introducing them to all kinds of Black people (like yourself) that don’t exactly fit into minimizing (and dehumanizing) stereotypes.
- Mentor, volunteer and teach within your community – Our communities could use good examples of leaders. Examples of proud, well educated, focused and committed Black people who thrive in a Black community speaks volumes to the people within it. Combating negative stereotypes within our own communities is a challenge all on it’s own. But through mentorship (etc), our communities can thrive and produce more influential social leaders.
- Consider a career change – Local government and the police force in many areas in the U.S. seem to be hiring frequently (high turn over rates and low wages). Like they say, if you can’t beat ’em, infiltrate ’em… Also, teaching at ethnically homogenous institutions can stimulate diversity in campus demographics, social-educational doctrine, and campus politics, thus nurturing an open-minded institution .
- Become a cultural warrior – While it isn’t in all of us to do something political, the creatives have the power to influence culture through the arts. Whether that is through visual arts or spoken word, artists have the ability to transform lives and galvanize societies.