We know that these recent killings of black men by police officers are nothing new. As a matter of fact, we’ve had several over the past few years that got a lot of media attention, prompted marches, and sparked outrage and riots. But these recent killings were different. We didn’t just hear about it at the barber shop or read the news reports about the violence. We actually witnessed what we deemed excessive force or injustice with our own eyes as victims were shot and dying right before our eyes. We saw the violence in action in almost real-time. Then to see the teenage son of one of the victims the next day overcome with grief and the next day to hear the voice of a sweet four year old little girl who not only witnessed the killing but was just at arm’s length in the back seat of the vehicle made it personal and the pain almost unbearable not only for African-Americans but anybody with a conscious.
As a result of these incidents there are members of the African-American community that are more vocal, more passionate, and more intentional about “doing something”. Some who never spoke out publicly about racial tensions are now speaking out, including me. I’m not an activist by any means as most others aren’t either. It’s just that more of us are now “fed up” if you will and not waiting or depending on another Martin Luther King, Jr. to arise to speak for us. There are more of us touched in a very deep emotional way and we feel the pain of racism like never before in our lifetime. There are more of us anxious to “do something” to bring about a change. But what I keep hearing over and over is, “I want to do something but, what?”
I’ve heard suggestions from pray to move to another country. One thing I know for sure is that running away will not solve anything and ONLY praying will not either. We need practical ways for the vast majority to feel connected to their community while knowing they are making a difference. I admit there is not a single perfect solution that will resolve the issues we face but if everyone did SOMETHING, no matter how small it seems, I believe we can make progress over time and our communities and this country will be better for it.
There is a call in light of recent events urging African-Americans to put at least a small amount of their money in black-owned banks, to intentionally support black-owned businesses, and to boycott certain major retailers. Simple…right? It doesn’t cost anything. It’s non-violent. And if you don’t want to announce it to the world you don’t have to. Yet I’ve had a few African-Americans question whether or not this approach was necessary or would make a difference. To quote one, “how does this boycott directly affect the unjust practices of those who are to protect and serve?” The answer, there is no “direct” affect per se but there is indirectly. How? Any political or judicial battle worth fighting requires money. If we keep more of our money in the black community we are building the reserves necessary if you will, to fight the legal battles required for years to come.
Research has shown that a dollar circulates in the black community approximately only 6 hours compared to one month in the Asian community, 20 days in the Jewish community and 17 in the white community. It’s no wonder we lag behind financially. If we don’t support one another, how can we expect others to?
We all know that most of the injustice in the black community goes unchallenged because of lack of financial resources. If we begin to support our own financially, we can help defend our own. Well, what about the businesses whose products and services are not up to par? This is another opportunity to “do something” and help your community. Help get them up to par. Instead of posting negative reviews and blasting it all over social media, offer solutions so they can improve and stay in business. Remember, as a community, in general African-Americans have not had access to the same opportunities and resources as other races. We are not “privileged” as Lori Lakin Hutcherson explains HERE. Most of the owners are doing the best they can with what they have and what they know. Your patience, continued support, and encouragement will go a long way and can make a big difference in the end.
Another indirect way that financially supporting the African-American community helps is through tax dollars. When you pay sales tax on the products and services in the community, that money goes to the local government entities. Public schools are funded through some type of local sales or property tax. In the Houston area for example, part of real estate taxes go to the school districts. As more businesses and home owners thrive in the black community so can the schools. So your money spent supports better education for the black community. When our children are better educated they are less likely to resort to violence to solve their issues and can use their intellect in a much more constructive way to affect change.
While the tactics of boycotting or spending money at black owned businesses will not immediately solve all the issues in the USA, I can support them because of the intent. During the civil rights movement the bus boycott may have seemed reactionary at first but I think it caused blacks to really think about where they spent their dollars overall. Boycotts worked and got the attention of not just big corporations but the government and that’s what we need to do is get their attention…the right attention the right way. In Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech about a day before he died he called for the black community to put their money in the black banks to make an economic impact. These were tactics of the civil rights movement that made our community stronger and affected change across the country. It's history repeating itself and we should learn from it.
So if we boycott what is it we are asking for? What do we want? The simple answer is we want police to stop recklessly killing our black men. We want the same treatment as whites when pulled over. We want to shop at stores and not be followed because we’re black. We want equal opportunity. We want the same “privilege” as whites.
The question now is how to make this happen? Maybe start with retraining our police officers. Most parents in the African-American community spend a lot of time training their children from elementary school age on what to do or how to act when they encounter a police officer. Maybe retraining our police officers on how to interact with the African-American community would be helpful.
Retrain them on how to handle a person that might be perceived as "resisting arrest". Click HERE for a recent blog by Jacqui Hill-Goudeau about how the average human, no matter what color, doesn't know how to NOT resist. It's in our survival nature to resist anything that might cause us pain or discomfort. It’s easy to say “don’t resist” but, when you are treated in a disrespectful unjust manner by a police officer, unless you have a history of multiple arrests you too might resist unintentionally out of fear or survival.
Retrain police on when and where to shoot. I've been told they are trained to shoot to kill first and ask questions later. Maybe they should shoot to injure first for minor violations like when a person could be perceived as "resisting". Or better yet, don't shoot at all. Fine them and hash it out in court. And if the alleged violator still turns out to be guilty, at least they’re still alive.
Maybe train police in cultural diversity. Focused ongoing training…not just once a year but a regular part of weekly discussions that are tracked for progress. Teach them how to talk to and relate to the “people” they serve. Maybe more will learn to see African-Americans as people first and not assumed criminals. People who have other people that love and care about them no matter their economic status, history, or educational background.
Give stiff consequences to law enforcement officers who are guilty of not reporting known racist remarks or acts of unfair treatment. We need good officers to report the bad officers. Just like they want us to report criminal activity in our community we ask that law enforcement do the same in theirs.
More African-Americans can begin to speak up in their community against any language that promotes hatred or disrespect of law enforcement. I believe it IS POSSIBLE to support the great men and women who are risking their lives to protect us while disagreeing with and fighting against the injustice from the few bad officers.
I am well aware that the issues in the African-American community and race relations in general in the United States are quite complex. There are no easy or quick fixes. We didn’t get here overnight. Every fiber of our being wants immediate solutions and the truth is there are none. We have to make shifts mentally for the long haul. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. This will take days, weeks, years and decades to see effective lasting positive change across the country. But if you, like me and many others, are desperate to “do something" now, please consider doing some of the things I mentioned earlier WHILE PRAYING. Small changes here and there even by a few can have a lasting impact over time.
The good news is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's dream is still alive. The better news is that it's not too late to make it a reality. The best news is we're on our way! As long as we continue to "do something" we are still in the process of living the dream. Consider this my “doing something”.
What are you doing? I would love to hear about it below.