"What Can I Do?" Turn your #RageToAction
The past few weeks of widespread social and political unrest sparked by the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have taken me on an emotional rollercoaster. And there is no blockchain cure for my emotional unrest or the systemic and systematic racism that permeate every institution in this country. As such, this isn't a regular (well, semi-regular) post about how blockchain is the best thing since sliced bread. Instead, I'm taking this opportunity to answer the question that has been on the minds of many of my friends and professional colleagues. And that question is, "What can I do?"
I'm not a movement lawyer. I don't work for an advocacy or activist organization. But I'm a doer and I have a lifelong history of doing. So here are some things that I've done and/or will do to support the movement for Black lives, justice and equality and turn my #ragetoaction.
Learn about the current issues. There is ample literature and data showing racial inequality in the criminal justice system, housing, education, employment, financial services, healthcare and basically every area that determines your quality of life. There is no single place to start learning so pick an area that you understand the most and start there. Police reform is obviously a big one right now but there are so many issues. And there is no perfect source of information but research institutes and think tanks are my go-tos.
Learn about how we got here. Read up about how historical and current policies and laws have been used to create and reinforce racial inequalities and disparities. In the context of police reform, there is a very clear lineage from our current national conception of policing
Learn more about proposed policy and non-policy solutions. As an advocate, you will be more comfortable talking to others about these issues if you have some familiarity with the landscape of solutions. Unfortunately, "Don't be racist" simply isn't the solution to a problem that is ingrained in the very fabric of our society. This is also a great way to familiarize yourself with counterarguments and rebuttals.
Figure out your go-to organizations. These should be organizations that are doing the work daily. Sign up for their emails or newsletters, read them and share them. If they offer membership, join. Follow them on social media.
Educate Your Lawmakers Through Political Action
Vote. In primaries. In local elections. In state elections. In national elections. In referenda. Your vote matters--especially when it comes to electing individuals that will advance a policy agenda that addresses these issues.
Engage with your local elected officials. Your local city or county officials (board members, mayors, chairperson, etc.) are likely to be the most responsive of your elected officials. Email them. Call them. Go to their town halls. Attend open county/city meetings. Tell them what issues you care about, how those issues show up in your local community and what you'd like them to do. Track their progress on these issues. Learn how they spend your tax dollars. And reach out to them on a regular (i.e., monthly) basis.
Engage with your state elected officials. Similar to your approach with your local elected officials, regularly contact your state officials (delegates/representatives, senators, governor, attorney general, etc.). Email, phone calls and in-person visits are all effective. Get them to commit to taking action in public and on the record (town halls). Identify legislation with favorable policies and tell them they should support it (hint: you can probably find issue briefs and other helpful literature on the websites of advocacy organizations). Circulate a petition calling for specific action and/or legislation.
Engage with your members of Congress. Email, phone calls, in-person meetings, town halls, other public events. Congressional offices keep track of how many times their constituents contact them in favor/disfavor of legislation. Contact them often and make your opinions known (hint: you can probably find templates/scripts for emailing/calling Congressional offices that can be adapted). Keep track of representatives' voting records on legislation you care about.
Engage with executives. Local boards and commissions, state agencies, federal agencies. These entities implement or carry out the laws and policies passed by legislators. If you identify a way they can do better (i.e., contract with more Black businesses, bring fresh food grocery stores to Black neighborhoods, adequately staff Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities in predominately Black cities, etc.), tell them. And do so regularly.
Educate Your Community Through Social Action
Social media. Social media is important but it is not the be-all and end-all. Social media should be used to amplify your other actions but it should not be the only thing you do. Tell your networks what you're learning and what you're doing and invite them to join you.
Have the tough conversations. Racism has been allowed to persist so long, in part, because we refuse to have tough and honest conversations about it with people who are not like-minded. Call it out when you see it. Talk about how it shapes your perspective or experience. Emphasize that it's not just racist attitudes--but also policies and practices--that must be demolished.
Traditional media. I know local and state newspapers are rapidly disappearing but many people still read local news and listen to local radio and watch the local news. Contact these outlets and figure out how to get your voice heard/published. Traditional media loves compelling and personal stories. Figure out how to incorporate a policy angle with a local human interest story.
Community organizations. From school pick-ups to book clubs to community gardens to museums to HOA meetings, there are plenty of opportunities to speak up and speak out. You don't have to give a keynote address (though you could). You don't have to pass out flyers (though you could). You don't even have to invite people to this weekend's protest (though you could). But you should ensure that you are creating opportunities to discuss racial inequalities and injustices that are happening in your community (criminal justice, housing, education, etc.). You should also invite your neighbors to learn more and join you in advocating for a more equal and just community.
Act. Organize that protest, sit-in, occupation, strike, rally, voter registration drive, voter restoration drive, or canvassing. Phone bank for a candidate that's committed to the cause. If you have a unique (or even simply useful) skill set, figure out how you can lend those skills to an advocacy or service organization.
Let Your Dollars Talk Through Economic Action
Give money to service and/or advocacy organizations. Make a monthly, recurring gift. Every bit helps so give what you can as often as you can for as long as you can. The $1378/52-week challenge is a popular one for increasing savings. Try it for giving.
Get others to give. Host a fundraiser. Donate your birthday/graduation/wedding/housewarming/etc. by asking people to make donations in lieu of gifts. Ask your employer about matching donations made by employees. Organize a fun event like a race, tournament or some other competition.
Support Black businesses. Not just on social media--but with your buying power, investing power and influence.
Don't support businesses with a record of discriminatory practices. There are many businesses that have records of discrimination in hiring and retention, or records of predatory, abusive and/or harassing behavior towards Black customers. Be more conscientious about where you spend your money and time and think about what practices you are, in fact, supporting with your buying power.
Support businesses that commit to specific measures to address racial inequality. A symbolic commitment to "do better" has never been enough because it has never produced any meaningful results. These types of pledges are not enough now. Support those businesses that set forth numeric benchmarks or goals for hiring, promotions, C-suite leadership, and Black community investment. But also be prepared to hold them accountable.
Plan for the Long-Term
The energy right now is high and everyone wants to do something and that's great. But this movement, which is not new, also needs people committed to consistent coordinated action over the long term. So if you find that you have some down time (because we are still in the middle of a global health crisis), map out what you're going to do. Figure out how much you can give. Take stock of the ways and places in which you regularly participate in communal settings. Figure out a few days each month that you will commit to act (e.g., the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays) and put it on your calendar. And then do it. And then tell people about it. And then share your resources, cheat sheets, templates, scripts, canned responses, etc. And then invite them to join you in the movement and to turn their #ragetoaction.