Remember back in June when you put that little black square up on your social media because you wanted to publicly show that you do not tolerate racism? You and all your friends made a statement with the black square communicating that what happened to George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other Black Americans is wrong. You could pat yourself on the back because you did your social justice and essentially said Black lives matter. Proud of you, boo.
But I have some terrible news for you. That black square you posted because you stand for social justice doesn’t move the needle.
Sharing resources and engaging in dialogues online holds value, but unfortunately does not ultimately alter systems of oppression. Learning about how various identities suffer oppression and ways to center marginalized voices plays a role in deconstructing the messed up system surrounding us. But you must do more if you’re wanting to more than check a social justice box on social media. If checking a box without actually putting in work was all you were hoping to accomplish, then you’re in the same boat as the oppressors.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.Desmond Tutu
Promoting social justice and change isn’t a hashtag to get you likes. Saying “Black lives matter” isn’t a trendy phrase to get people interested in your content. If the civil rights violations people face everyday serve only as a vessel for your agenda, you aren’t promoting social justice — you’re promoting yourself. The sooner you learn that, the sooner you can pick up your gauntlet and join the fight for a better, more just future.
We all have a role to play in bringing about change. Some of us first need to close our mouths and listen to marginalized voices. Some of us need to use our privilege to amplify marginalized voices. Some of us need to use the power or influence we hold to challenge our peers who either intentionally or unintentionally silence marginalized voices. No contribution in the fight for justice is ever too small. One conversation can be the deciding factor in how people choose to spend their time, energy, and resources. So be kind, but firm. Change must happen.
Vive la résistance – how can you be action-oriented in making change happen?
It’s a presidential election year, so voting is already on your mind. I want it to be on your mind any time you can vote for an elected official. Change starts in your neighborhood, district, city, and state. Do not dismiss voting for local positions. Heck, run for one of the positions. Just please, for the love of all that is good, vote. Ask your friends if they’re registered to vote and plan to vote. Voting gives a voice to many, so if you have the privilege of voting, do it.
So maybe you don’t want to run to be an elected official and be the change, or it’s not election time. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out to those making decisions. Elected officials work for the communities they represent (that’s you, homie). If someone came to your house and you paid them to mow your lawn and they absolutely obliterated the grass and flowerbeds, you would have some words with your lawn person. Why on earth would you not take the same approach to the people making decisions that impact your quality of life? Mad about what’s happening in Washington? Call your representative. Tell your friend to call their representative. The general public deserves to be heard, policy makers should not be making decisions that don’t benefit the general public. They are there to work for you.
This might seem out of place here, but seeing and engaging with people who are different from you will help with your empathy. Engage with communities other than your own. You need to understand why people feel so strongly about certain policies when you feel like they don’t impact you in any way. Also, volunteering is dope and why wouldn’t you want to help others in your community?
We all have privilege, some more than others. It’s easy to get into a routine where we don’t even consider some of the resources we have access to that others may not. Be self aware and check in– did you have to worry about food or a roof over your head? Did you get an education that allows you access into certain circles? Does your gender ensure people listen to what you’re saying? Do people assume the worst because of your race?
I know that the news can be one big doom scroll, but now is not the time to put your head in the sand. If there are problems you feel strongly about, you need to get the information to form an educated opinion. This should go without saying, but get your news from a credible source (i.e. NOT FACEBOOK). According to Pew Research, Americans who get most of their news from social media are less informed. Meaning, get your news from a reputable source!
Stay informed, stay woke, wear a mask, and love people ✌🏽