I hope we have vented and cried about how upset we are about the recent shootings in Baton Rouge and Minnesota, and we’re now ready to DO something about it. Hashtags are not us doing something.
I heard Eric Garner’s mother make a powerful statement the day after the shooting:
“This [shooting of citizens by the police] is not a hashtag to me. This is my life. I will never see my son again.”
(I liberally paraphrased her, but you can find the actual quote if you Google it).
We can’t just hashtag our lives away. We have to DO something! So here’s what I do and will do.
- I financially support organizations like the Equal Justice Initiative and the Innocence Project. I currently do not have the time or training to do what they do – wonderful, wonderful work trying to free innocent people who are in jail. But I can give up my Chick-fil-A to help provide resources for them. I don’t give a whole lot of money, but every little bit helps.
- I wrote this letter to Prince George’s County Exec Rushern Baker, and I plan to keep writing him, along with all of the other politicians I mentioned in the letter. I will be a thorn in their sides. There are laws that need to be written, police unions that need to be checked, and training that needs to happen so that these senseless killings can stop. If we were to unite and demand comprehensive change in police departments across the country, not simply the prosecution of a cop who shoots someone, we could effect change.
I listened to a segment on the Diane Rehm show on NPR the other day with David Cole, the author of a book on how citizens can affect change. According to Mr. Cole, the reason the NRA is so powerful is because they have 5 MILLION Americans who, whenever ANY attempt is made to pass gun control laws, immediately start calling their senators and congressmen and women and telling them how absolutely annoyed they will be if the proposed law passes.
When was the last time you saw 5 million black people get together and do anything on a consistent basis? When was the last time you saw 200 black people get together to do anything on a consistent basis? Oh! I remember – we all downloaded Beyoncé’s Lemonade and talked about how “real” it was. We need to get real.
- If there is money left after putting my sons through college, I plan to either go to law school or get some type of legal training so that I can support organizations like the ones I mentioned above.
That’s what I do. What can you do?
- Contact your local politicians about training for our police departments. Feel free to steal my letter. But you can’t just do it once. You have to do it over and over and over and over again. Persistent widow, anyone? Black people have to stop being so apathetic about the political process. If we want change, we have to make it.
- Look out for town halls where there are issues dealing with the police. Attend them. Tell police chiefs that killing people is not an accepted response to feeling “threatened”.
- Look for judges who give light sentences to those who abuse their power. Don’t vote for them.
- Talk to your sons and daughters about how to stay safe (whatever “safe” means) during encounters with the police, although Leslie Miley put it wonderfully in her op ed on the killings: “…death is always a possible outcome when you are black and come in contact with law enforcement.”
So there really is no guarantee of safety. But check out this wonderful video produced by Mt. Olivet Baptist Church – https://www.facebook.com/MOBC.ColumbusOH/videos/10152601061930706/ – and then show it to your children over and over again.
- Join organizations that are working to promote change in this area.
People didn’t just sit around and talk about how awful it was that blacks were denied rights afforded to whites. They went and sat down at lunch counters and were spat on and beat up. They went to rallies where their buses were blown up. They had water hoses and dogs turned on them. They served jail time. They got up and did something.
Hashtags, no matter how cute and creative and witty they are, are not us doing something. Once you start DOING something, by all means – Facebook, tweet, IG and hashtag the hell out of it! Until then….we are not effecting change. We are simply posting to social media.