What Can I Do
In the past two weeks, demonstrations have erupted across the U.S. and the world after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man. The Black Lives Matter Movement has gained immense momentum as people, advocates, and allies protest police brutality and systemic racism.
These few weeks have been tough. Like many others, I have found myself with a heavy heart, and at a loss for what to do, what to say, or how to help. However, I understand that not doing nothing is not an option. If you haven’t yet, check out our last week’s post, I’m A Leader and I Don’t Know, from our Executive Director. Tackling systemic racism can feel like a huge task, but we all play a role. Each of us contributes to the system in some way or another. While it can feel discouraging, we need to remember our individual and collective agency.
Your voice and actions are important. They can inspire others, and they can create a movement. We still have a long road ahead, but remember that change is possible and change is happening. In just a matter of two weeks, here are some ways progress has already been made:
- New Laws – Louisville Metro City Council approved Breonna’s Law, which would regulate the police’s ability to enter houses without knocking (WDRB)
- Reallocation of Funds – Protestors rallied outside of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s house, and he cut $100 million from the police budget to reallocate resources (Forbes)
- Rethinking Police Training – California Governor, Gavin Newson, banned police training programs from teaching the “carotid hold” which stops blood flow to the brain (Associated Press)
- The Removal of Racist Statues – the Confederate soldier statue in Alexandria was removed (Forbes)
As we continue making progress, it is more important than ever that we do not step back. We must keep going forward. We must continue educating ourselves and each other. We must learn about the history of racism. Unfortunately, school has traditionally been a tough place (logistically, structurally, etc.) for all perspectives and all stories to be taught. This means that we need to take responsibility to learn about the different sides of history in our country. We need to examine our own privilege and consider how we can use it to be an advocate for others. We have infinite tools at our disposal to catalyze meaningful change – from having difficult conversations to using social media responsibly, from signing petitions to donating to organizations that organize and support these causes.
As we continue to learn, we also must continue to embrace opportunities for growth. It is hard to know the right thing to say, but it is better to say something than nothing at all. No matter how much we learn, listen, and educate ourselves, we have to accept that sometimes we will make mistakes. We will see others make mistakes as well. While it can be easy to jump to conclusions or fear speaking up again, we must remain respectful of where people are coming from. We are not trained to have conversations about race, which is a problem in itself. Welcome criticism with grace, and kindly educate others instead of placing judgment. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
The Black Lives Matter movement aims to tackle complex issues with long histories in the United States. We have so much to both learn and unlearn – from the school to prison pipeline to redlining and access to healthcare. Luckily, we have access to a world of information at our fingertips that can help us to make sense of these causes. That being said, this kind of access can also create convoluted or misconstrued information. To get the most accurate information so we can form our own opinions and take action, we have to be critical of sources, find supporting evidence, explore alternative solutions, and be alert to conflicting or contradictory information. Complex issues require complex solutions; if something seems too good to be true, it probably needs further analysis, exploration, or consideration. Be a part of the change by taking part in one of these suggestions, and encourage others to do the same.
- Change up your screen time – Host a virtual movie night with friends…but more importantly, have a conversation about it afterward. The drive for change isn’t just about one thing. Yes, we need to stop police brutality, but it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. Is it training? Is it education? Is it family dynamics? Is it mental health? Choose a movie that is pertinent to what you feel you want to learn about, want to talk about, are passionate about.
- Read – Invite your friends or family to read a book with you or even start a book-club! There are so many great books that can educate us. A speaker I heard once said, “If you read three books about one topic, you will be more of an expert on that topic than most.” Now, I don’t know if I believe this to be true, but the foundation of this statement is true…if we read three books on a topic, we will definitely know more than we did before.
- Donate where you can: If you have the means to do so, donate where you can. I encourage you to spend some time researching for those that particularly spark your passion and beliefs about how your donation is dispersed.