*Any opinions expressed within the blog are those of the author and not necessarily held by Polinav*
Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. I’ve been as shocked as everyone with these acts of ignorance & seemingly senseless violence. With that said, this isn’t a problem of police brutality. This is racism, plain and simple. Not Jim Crow blatant, “blacks are inferior” racism, but a “society has taught me to be scared of you” type of racism. But how do you solve this? How do you solve a societal racial bias? (Unsure if you’re biased or not, try out the Project Implicit Race IAT test) Well, for one, it won’t happen overnight, but here’s how I think we can start to combat it.
Remember our mistakes #NeverForget
When a friend of mine visited Germany recently, he talked about how much Germans memorialize and remind themselves about the atrocities surrounding the Holocaust. It’s obviously not because they’re proud of this part of their history, but it stands as a reminder to “Never Forget”. As a nation, we also need to be proactive about reminding ourselves about the atrocities we’ve condoned, in particular African slavery. We can’t hide our shameful acts—we must embrace them.
Let’s make slavery an integral part of our high school curriculum; have students engage in role-playing so students palpably understand what it was like to be in that kind of master-slave relationship (ie Stanford prison experiment). Erect more memorials in remembrance. Teach the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. If we aren’t shameful of our history, it becomes too easy to repeat it.
Remember when Donald Trump was calling for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.? Without taking a stance on the policy itself, I was discouraged by how Trump talked on how FDR was a respected President and then implied that FDR solved the “Japanese problem” through a drastic measure. As a country, we should never be allowed to even imply that the internment of our own citizens was the right move. Never. We can never let ourselves forget that that was a mistake that we made.
Share the Black stories of today #ThisIsMyStory
There is an aspect of epiphany that comes from remembering the shame of our past and great storytelling goes a long way to achieving this, for example: 12 Years a Slave and Roots (both the original & recent reboot). But epiphany also comes from understanding the current realities and potential futures.
I would caution people from focusing so much on the success stories. It’s great for young black kids to have role models: the 1st black President, musical artists, athletes; this kind of success, though, isn’t the norm. White people see these successes and continue to believe that “if anyone works hard, anyone can be successful.”
This American Life in “For Your Reconsideration” talks about the positive effect the stories of those affected by an issue have on changing perspective, even on the most contentious issues. Blacks have to share the stories of:
- the ease & motivation of joining the drug trade
- the broken families due to mass incarceration
- the life of a debtor (not for leverage purposes)
- the lack of opportunity post-incarceration
- the treatment they receive from the police on the daily
- the state of their primary education system
These are the stories that need to be shared. There are 3 different Americas right now: the fabulously wealthy, the poor, and then everyone else. There’s so much distance between the rich and the poor that the rich really have no clue how the poor live. These are the stories that need to be shared.
Tackle poverty at its root #TacklePovertyBy
Why do these stories need to be shared? Because the average American does not truly understand what problems our poor go through. It is stories that can change the values on which America runs. Right now, our value is individualism in pursuit of the American Dream. I think it’s time that we re-evaluate our value as Americans.
But what steps should we take to alleviate poverty in the richest country in the world? These are some things I think could work.
- Re-evaluate sentencing laws and what should be considered felonies versus misdemeanors. In particular, evaluating our war on drugs.
- Reform and experiment with our education system.
- Make it much easier to fire teachers
- Encourage our brightest to pursue teaching by compensating well
- Encourage innovation through charter schools and adopt best practices quickly at public schools
- Encourage trade schools over college
- Encourage life long learning
- Create an adequate social net for basic needs
- Family leave
- Unemployment Insurance
- Economic reform
Economic reform brings us back to what it is that American should value. Let me ask you: should we continue to encourage our businesses to value the highest possible dollar profit?
These are just some preliminary thoughts, a starting place. To even try these reforms, though, we need some better tools.
Make your political voice heard #MyVoteCounts
If we can make our political voice heard, we can make our politicians take the action we want them to. But it’s really difficult to make that voice heard today. When politics is partly run by money & when there’s no easy way for the public in aggregate to keep their politicians accountable…it’s hard to make our voice heard. This is where Polinav can become the voice of the people.
Once our voice is heard, we can try different reforms out, hopefully through the states first. I did explain my personal prescriptions on how to start alleviating poverty in our country. The beauty of a properly functioning democracy, though, is that we can decide collectively what to do, with any one opinion just a drop in the bucket.
Police brutality is a complex issue. Racism is an even more complex issue. We can start to tackle these issues if we #NeverForget our mistakes, share our (#ThisIsMy)Story, figure out together how to #TacklePoverty(By), and accomplish all this by making #MyVoteCount(s).