#AltonSterling and #PhilandoCastile are the latest trending hashtags, representing people of color killed by the police on video. If you’re like me, the outpouring of emotion on social media is both cathartic and frustrating. I clicked the “Sad” reaction on Facebook over and over, and then compiled this list for what else to do:
1. Learn the issue.
This is an emotional issue all around. But don’t be that guy who says “cooperate with cops and it’ll be fine,” or “for every suspect killed by police, there’s a police officer killed in the line of duty.” I saw that comment recently, and: NO, wrong! Check on which jobs in the USA are the most deadly, and police officer isn’t even in the top ten. (This is why “Blue Lives Matter” is nonsense.)
Check what the evidence shows, on MappingPoliceViolence.org and more: implicit bias leads police to kill black Americans disproportionately, and they’re only charged with a crime 3 percent of the time. (This disproportionality is why “Black Lives Matter” makes more sense than “All Lives Matter.”)
2. Learn allyship.
This one is mainly for my fellow white people! “Privilege” and “ally” are suddenly trendy buzzwords that I have mixed feelings about. There is a ton to read online, but here’s a handy reminder from Kayla Reed on twitter:
A- Always center the impacted
L- Listen & learn from those who live in the oppression
L- Leverage your privilege
Y- Yield the floor
One little way to Leverage white privilege is to speak up about race to fellow white people, like I’m doing with this blog post.
3. Join SURJ / White Noise Collective.
In addition to your conversations, learn how can white privilege be leveraged collectively. The people of Showing Up For Racial Justice have ideas! The SURJ chapter here in RI is coordinated by the White Noise Collective. Sign up to stay posted on local opportunities for involvement, and maybe I’ll see you at the next demonstration.
4. Join DARE
No, not D.A.R.E. that educates kids about drugs. Rhode Island is the proud home of DARE as in Direct Action for Rights & Equality, which includes a committee on policing and incarceration. If you’re an Eastsider like me, going to DARE might feel a bit odd, but do it anyway. DARE has a track record of real victories for RI social justice.
5. Back the Community Safety Act
First, consider this list of 15 Things Your City Can Do to End Police Brutality. It looks great, but even harder to accomplish than the average “Things You Can Do to Burn Fat” online list. The good news for Rhode Islanders is the pending Community Safety Act for Providence. DARE is part of the coalition promoting this bill. Learn about it so that you can mention it to your City Councilor when you see each other. Speaking of which: do you know who your elected officials are? (Level two: do your elected officials know who you are?) Electoral and legislative work has its limits, but it is absolutely worth paying attention to.
Some people want to be on campaigns and in hearings; some people want to be marching in the streets; both have their place and support each other. You can do some of each, or just find your lane and stay in it. There are lots of ways to do something. Don’t do nothing.