How to Raise Your Voice When You Can’t Be in the Street

Maddie Shepard
JCTA Treasurer

“If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made”.  Malcolm X said this over 50 years ago.  We shouldn’t still need to reference this quote today. It’s supposed to be different.  We’re supposed to have progressed so much more than this.  But here we are.

If you’re like me, you’re mad as hell for reasons that are hard to untangle.  And if you’re not, you should be.  If you’re like me, you aren’t able to stand next to your friends and family in the protests.  Maybe you’re 5 months pregnant and a little protective of your abnormally large midsection.  Maybe you’re immuno-compromised.  Maybe you don’t have transportation.  Maybe you don’t have childcare.  Whatever the reason, there are ways we can catalyze progress without physically protesting.  

It kills me that I can’t stand next to my colleagues and shout, and demand change.   And it’s made me think differently, and probably more deeply, about what I see around me.  It’s made me wonder what kind of world this will be for my child if things don’t change, and fast.  Maybe more importantly, it made me shudder to think how black mothers and fathers must feel.  It’s made me want to fight even harder.  So I have been thinking about what those of us who can’t join the movement downtown can do to help.  We can still be allies.

LISTEN

I am not black.  I won’t even feign understanding at what the black experience has been before this, or what it is now, or what it will be after.  But I can seek to understand.  I can ask honest, genuine questions, and then shut my mouth and listen.  White people need to do a better job shutting up and listening to black people.  If you show more outrage about broken windows than broken bodies, then you aren’t listening.

LEARN

Let’s be honest white friends-many of us have chosen to be blind.  This blindness means we have gaps in our understanding.  Do your civic duty.  Learn about our elected decision-makers.  If they don’t stand against the injustices we’re seeing in the justice system, education, housing, etc., they have to go.  Full stop.  Look up their voting history.  Read their websites. Connect with civic organizations who gather that information (e.g., Kentuckians for the Commonwealth).  Knowledge is your best weapon when we go to battle in the election booth.

We can’t seek to understand what we don’t know.  We can’t seek change if we don’t see the problem. And let’s be honest white friends-many of us have chosen to be blind.  It’s time to learn about the experiences of our black brothers and sisters.  These sites and organizations are good places to start.

Roots 101 African American Museum

Black Lives Matter

Kentucky Center for African American Heritage

NEA’s EdJustice website

A Time To Listen, Learn, and Act blog post-Summitt Learning

DONATE: TIME

Silence is complicity.  We MUST vote out the elected decision makers who make the problem worse by ignoring or minimizing.  We MUST vote out the elected decision-makers who are silent and complicit.  After you do your research on the candidates who WILL fight against racial injustice, give them your time.  They literally can’t win elections without you.  Volunteer your time to stuff envelopes with campaign material, make phone calls to voters, or if and when we can resume normal in-person activities, volunteer to knock on doors.

There are ways to donate time outside of elections too.  Writing blogs (like this one) to share perspective and resources, or volunteering with civic organizations focused on community building are great places to start.  Here are some starting points.

The Big Table

Volunteer Match

Idealist.org

greatnonprofits.org

DONATE: MONEY

If you’ve got the means, choose candidates that will fight tooth and nail against racial injustice, and fuel their campaigns to help them get elected.  Give them your money.  Your donations are particularly powerful for local elections.

You can help correct the injustices waged against the black community by helping to build it.  Patronize black owned businesses.  This takes intentionality, research, and planning.  Here are some great businesses to get you started.

60+ Black Owned Restaurants in Louisville

Similarly, celebrate the black story.  There isn’t enough black history in schools.  We’re doing better, but we have far to go.  Black history month isn’t enough.  One class in African American history isn’t enough-especially when histories are presented through the eyes of the oppressor.  Donate to places that are celebrating black stories and the black experience.  Many are non-profits, and live on donations.  Here are some good ones.

Roots 101 African American Museum

Black Lives Matter

Kentucky Center for African American Heritage

Louisville Community Bail Fund

Equal Justice Initiative

WIELD YOUR PEN AND YOUR SWORD: AT THE VOTING BOOTH

I saved this one for last on purpose.  Long-lasting, systemic, sweeping change happens in legislation and in the courts.  

Call/text/email your representatives!  If you are reading this, you have the time and money to contact your elected representatives (it’s free). Put them on speed dial. Ask your networks to call them too. Show them you are paying attention and are holding them accountable for their decisions.

You can contact your state legislators at 1-800-372-7181.  You don’t even need to know who your representative is (though you should).  Apps make it even easier.  Countable lets you contact representatives with the click of a button.Make sure you and everyone you know are registered to vote.  You can do that here.  Get your absentee ballot-TODAY.   Voting in the primaries will help ensure you know the process for the big one-in November.  We must VOTE OUT every single person who is not unapologetically speaking out against the injustices we are witnessing all over the country that harm people of color.  I know it’s hard to trust a system that has left so many behind for decades.  If we unite, we can change things.  It has happened before.  It can happen again.  Outrage is not enough. Protests are not enough. Your tweets are not enough. We must activate all of the levers of democracy to see change happen. No matter your schedule or monetary means, there are ways you can contribute.  Together we are strong.  And we can do it.

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