When I joined my first Civil Rights protest in Springfield, Mass. in the 1960s, I remember looking around the crowd and thinking, “Where are all the white people?” We are all impacted by the racism, poverty and injustice faced by our fellow Americans. I am very heartened to see that I would not have to ask that question in 2020.
Many people who know I were involved in Civil Rights ask me, “But, what can I do about racial injustice?” My answer is a guide to action for anyone who wishes to make a difference.
1. Join or organize a protest. Can’t protest? Support the protesters. Provide water, food, shelter, masks, hand sanitizer.
2. Bear witness. If it isn’t recorded, it didn’t happen. Hundreds of Black men and women have been killed in the history of America. This fact wasn’t real to most Americans until the national news reported on the murder of Emmett Till in 1955.
3. Take civic action.
Vote. Go to Vote.org or Vote.gov or Vote411.org or Votolatino.org
Complete the census. Encourage others to complete the census.
En Espanol: La Encuesta sobre la Comunidad Estadounidense y el Censo del 2020
Go old school and write and call your senators and representatives. This still has influence.
Think your vote doesn’t matter? Remember that progress has been made by acts of the federal government — The Voting Rights Act, Brown v. Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia, The Fair Housing Act.
4. Support a Free Press. Commentators are not the same as reporters. Reporters who witness news must be paid to be in all corners of the world. This is expensive. Buy a paper. Donate to NPR or Newspapers in Education. Studies conducted at the University of Illinois (Chicago) and Notre Dame support what Clay Shirky calls a “causal endemic corruption” that follows the loss of local press. With no media watchdogs, corruption increases.
5. Educate yourself. Know the US Constitution, the history of racial oppression and income inequity, specific discriminatory practices such as redlining, voter suppression, and denial of training opportunities in the workplace.
6. Donate. Give to Black Lives Matter, the ACLU, UnidosUS, the League of Women Voters or an organization of your choice that fights racial injustice and economic inequity. When you think you have given enough, give a little more.
7. Challenge racist comments. Simply saying, “Why would you say that?” is often enough to end a rant or to cause reflection.
8. Fight for low income housing in your community. Yes, your community. Concentrating people with low incomes in one area is by its nature inequitable — food deserts, overstressed schools and community services.
Final thoughts: Complaining or commiserating is not the same as action. Checking yourself for racial bias is important, but is not a substitute for action.
When the protests end, your support should not!
Sherry Earle is a Danbury resident who has taught preschool to college-age students in urban and suburban settings.