With the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI on August 23, protests and riots have erupted once again, sweeping not only Wisconsin but also cities all across the country. Calls for police reform and racial equality reached their peak this summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody. This brand of activism has led to several notable policy shifts in local governments, like bans on the use of chokeholds and tear gas, reductions in police department budgets, and body camera mandates. But these changes are limited to specific jurisdictions, and as evidenced by Blake’s shooting, tackling police brutality still requires deeper, more substantive action.
For those living in places where protests may have died down, or for those who are looking for other options to make a difference, there are a few other ways to stand up, chip in, and do your part.
Somewhere I read that the greatness of America was the right to protest for rights — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Use Your Voice
There are lots of petitions circulating that need signatures, like Color of Change’s #JusticeForJake campaign, which calls for the officer involved in Blake’s shooting to be held accountable. These campaigns and petitions may not immediately lead to change, but they call national attention to grave issues affecting Black communities. They increase awareness, and they help recruit new supporters to aid in the fight. Though it might seem so, adding your name to a petition is not an empty action.
Also, consider educating those around you, whether it’s finding ways to speak to your children about this moment or taking time to engage with friends and coworkers of different races to provide perspective. Sharing your thoughts and views can give heft to issues that otherwise may not penetrate some people’s daily realities.
Open Your Wallet
Many corporations have come under fire for simply donating to social justice organizations without making any real commitments within their companies to address racial inequality. But those donations are actually helpful, and yours can be, too. It takes considerable funding to organize, create, and launch campaigns.
When making your donation, keep the following things in mind:
- Stick with an official nonprofit organization and avoid the GoFundMe campaigns. Nonprofits have stricter measures of accountability and transparency.
- Understand the organization’s mission – does it align with your values and goals?
- If you choose a 501(c)3 nonprofit, any donation you make is tax-deductible.
- Do some research to understand how your donation will be used. Watchdogs like Charity Navigator share financial information about the percentage of donations that are used for the organization’s mission versus operating costs and salaries.
Wield Your Creativity
During this summer of racial reckoning, people have turned to art – literature, paintings and sculptures, film, TV – to both express how they feel and understand more about how we got here. Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist returned to the bestseller list. Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing was available for free on numerous streaming networks. And The New York Times asked artists to reimagine monuments for the modern era.
If you’re an artist, perhaps channeling your message and anger into your art can help you reach more people, inspire meaningful conversations, and make more of an impact than any Twitter thread can.
While protesting is still a vital part of any activist movement, it’s not the only way that you can contribute. If you aren’t in a major city or you feel you could be more useful in other ways, you have options.