We Know the Problem- But What Can We Do? (On justice systems, the black community, and what it means to support.)

Originally posted on Medium.com.

It’s clear that issues of race in regard to the United States justice systems- mainly regarding local police forces- aren’t going away. With Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and too many others, we see our systems failing us.

Correction: we see justice systems failing black citizens.

I’ve been spending time thinking about what I can do. I find it inappropriate to suggest plans of action or pass judgment on how the black community is reacting (or should react) to these injustices. I am a 20-something white female who’s never had any major run-ins with police. I recognize my privilege and further recognize the lack-of in the black community. I don’t fully understand what it means to be black in America today, so I cannot tell a community how to act or react. I can, however, be an ally.

An argument stands against the rioting and protesting that it’s only perpetuating a systemic and historic ideal of chaos and disorganization among the black community.

However, if you’re regularly met with unwarranted violence- it’s easy to believe more unwarranted violence is your only option.

As I said, it’s not my place to tell a community that I have no part in how to react. I don’t fully agree with the violent nature much of the rioting, but I understand where it’s coming from.

It’s crucial to note the importance of media with this issue. Understand your sources. News and media are NOT unbiased. Fox News and Huffington Post are going to present two very different views of the same event. Check multiple sources about the same story and be critical. I beg of you, if you do one thing during this racially tense time, find the truth. Read between the lines. Don’t let the media’s use of the power of suggestion, along with any preexiting bias you may have, to sway your views one way or another. Having said that, accept when your views are wrong and the facts are right. Talk about it with others. See what they have to say about the news and the media’s presentation of it. Be open.

You must seek out the real truth. Do not accept half-truths anymore.

So what can I do, coming from a white and female perspective, to help? What can others who are equally outraged do to make change?

We can support. We can advocate. We can see to it that this subject doesn’t get silenced. We can educate about the nature of the media and urge people to find the truth between the lines. We can use what we have, be it social media or political influence, to make this wrong a right. We can be on the right side of history.

http://www.ips-dc.org/ferguson-unfinished-business-civil-rights-movement/

Having said all that, this is an extremely complex issue that can’t be solved so easily. It’s going to take a leader or group to organize the community and make the steps necessary to achieve their goal.

I think back to the 60s and the first civil rights movement. I think of the artists and leaders of the time who used their influence to write songs, create art, and support the causes they saw important. Use the skills you have and the perspectives you’re stemming from to make change. Do what you can with what you’ve got (and be mindful about doing so). Your skill or perspective may reach the overwhelming population that has NO idea about Ferguson, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, or the hundreds of other innocent black lives claimed by the hands of those who are designed to protect.

A “solution” I’ve heard several times is to get the black community more involved in the justice system. However, when that system has rules and laws in place that perpetuate oppression, this won’t help very much. Also, if you’re constantly met with hostility by a system or group- why would you want to join it?

I urge everyone to keep the conversation going. Educate your peers on what’s happening on their own soil. Their outrage will collectively spread and reach further than you may imagine. Understand the perspective people are coming from before blindly listening to their platforms- including my own. Check sources. See what their ideals are and find if that’s influenced the things they are saying. Don’t ignore atrocities because they make you uncomfortable or guilty. Use those feelings to fuel change.

Lastly, check your bias and prejudices at the door. People have a way of surprising you when met with compassion and empathy. Don’t let the deaths of innocent people be in vain.

#BlackLivesMatter

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