My immediate reaction was that I cried in my bed, thinking of my son, my two brothers and both of my nephews. I thought of losing them and feeling a level of helplessness.
What I have learned is that there are some who refuse to acknowledge the systemic racism that exists in this country. So now we have to call them out. If you hear or see someone endorse bigotry and racism, tell them it is wrong, call the company they work for and let them know what their employee is doing. Let them know you will not stand for it, and you will not support their business until they take action and let others know you will not stand for it, as well. If you have supported a business and you see their owner posting racist comments on Facebook and Instagram stories, stop using their services.
For those who have an issue with #BlackLivesMatter, I heard an analogy recently that was brilliant and was shared by a white woman. She said if you have a group of people sitting around a table and everyone gets a plate of food except Bob, Bob would speak up and say “Can I get a plate of food? I am so hungry.” Karen would speak up and say “Well, Bob, we all are hungry.” However, Bob is the only one without food. So if black people have to start a movement to make sure they can eat, everyone else should be happy that they don’t have to have a movement.
The protests and the aftermath are symbolic of the pain and trauma felt by millions of Americans who are fed up of the senseless killings of black men and women. A video of a black man murdered by those who were sworn to protect us shared around the world has people up in arms and they don’t know how to handle that. Just weeks before, we had a video of another black man who went for a jog and was murdered in broad daylight by three white men.
I have been blessed to have had some amazing people who do not look like me give me the opportunity to have my voice heard so I could make a greater impact in the community. But many others need to be provided a seat at the table, as well. Community, city and university boards should be more diverse, not only in thought but in race and ethnicity. This is how change and inclusivity occurs.
Many are asking the question “What can I do?” and “What can I do that will make a difference?” So I have compiled a list to help them get started. Much of what is provided here is from the president of the National Council of Negro Women, Dr. Jonnetta Betsch Cole. Regardless of your skin color or cultural background, everyone’s help is needed in pushing the needle forward. Systemic racism is a widespread problem in our society and we all need to do a better job in confronting it in our communities and government.
- Call and write in to request that the U.S. Justice Department award grants to incentivize state and local police jurisdictions to do the following: require body-worn cameras, implement stricter no-knock warrants, implement de-escalation training, require psychological evaluation of police officers prior to hiring, require collection of statistical information on excessive use of force complaints, mandate the creation of citizen boards to review police misconduct complaints, and to require unconscious bias training for all police officers.
- Through your place of worship, library or community center, organize virtual gatherings that engage small groups of African Americans and white Americans in facilitated courageous conversations about race and racism in your local area and nationally.
- Reach out to your local school board to initiate or to update what may have been a longstanding call to include in the required curriculum education about racism and other systems of inequality in our country and the world. There are teachers right here in Orange County who I personally know could assist in creating this curriculum.
- Engage in the tried and true act of writing to your local, state and federal elected representatives to express your reaction to the recent racially charged incidents, and be sure to say what you ask them to do about these incidents. Here is a link where you can access the contact information of your elected officials if you live in Florida.
- Demand that the U.S. Senate debate and vote on H.R. 1 (For the People Act) that has passed the House of Representatives, which would restore the Voting Rights Act and limit voter suppression.
- Keep yourself informed about important matters related to acts of systemic racism. For example, familiarize yourself with the work of the Center for Policing Equity. In doing so, you will understand that persistent racial bias in the use of force is not tied to rates of criminal infraction. Force is applied disproportionately against black people and other people of color, even when they commit the same infractions as white people.
- Speak up whenever you hear a comment that is racist, or expresses bigotry or hatred for any group of people.
- Whenever you can, donate to organizations that are fighting for human rights, civil rights and women’s rights. There are attorneys out here fighting the good fight; make sure you are supporting them as well.
- Each of us must participate in the Census. Resources and political representation are based on census data.
Stay focused … there is work to be done, but we must be together on this. Hopelessness cannot be the answer!
If you are a black business owner or community leader in Central Florida and would like to share your thoughts, please email Editor Cindy Barth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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