In the aftermath of the recent shootings of multiple unarmed black men by police, the question of what do we do now, becomes the focus. The call to turn this moment into a movement, have been expressed by many, but how exactly are we going to do that? Change is more than a few catchy slogans. Change takes endurance, discipline, and willingness to get the goal accomplished. It’s time to think toward long-term strategy, which requires individual commitment. This is often the point where everyone dwindles off the bandwagon because change may involve changing one’s behavior and life style to a more socially conscious and politically engaged state. The reason why it seems like black people don’t gain any ground in getting their agendas met is the same reason why an obese person who goes on a diet for a few weeks usually gains back their weight, because we weren’t willing to make a lifestyle change.
Politics is something that many fear or don’t care about because they don’t understand the effectiveness of it. What most of us do understand, are the effects of bad policies, corrupt elected officials, and selective enforcement. What the black community has to do better at is in remaining a consistent, collective voting base. In the same way we unite for a cause we must remain united in seeing that cause pushed forward into law. We always had the ability to penetrate the root of our problems through exercising our right to vote.
Let me be clear, it’s not just voting alone, that’s just one element. It’s also being an informed voter who is engaged on the local and national level. This means not waiting on Election Day to be handed a cheat ballot of recommended candidates or basing your vote on the names you remember seeing in neighbors’ yards. It means voting at primaries and in this year’s very important mid-term election, and not just presidential elections. It means understanding politics is local. It’s essential to vote for your judges, mayors, prosecutors, and governors because similar to Ferguson, their decisions will directly affect the people in those local communities. We have to go online and visit candidates’ websites. Candidates who are speaking toward our interests we have to support with donations. A few dollars from a collective of supporters goes along way. We have to dedicate time to go to political forums and debates to meet and question these individuals face to face. I do this very well and mostly every politician in my city knows my face and some may even break into a cold sweat because they know I will ask the tough questions for my community. Many are my friends on Facebook because they want to be connected to real people. When I vote, I know the candidates, I know their platform and I am able to make an educated decision on rather they are working in my best interest or not.
We must have awareness of what the black agenda is and not be afraid to address it. Do you know what the black agenda is? I’ll tell you what I believe it is: equality in the quality of education in our public schools, equality in employment opportunities, and equality in the judicial system. We also must address eliminating gun violence in our communities not the coined term “black on black crime”. We have to move away from slogans that promotes negative stereotypes. The highest perpetrator of crimes against any race is their own race but we don’t hear “white on white crime” or “Hispanic on Hispanic crime”, so why do we accept this label for blacks? It’s time out on that, but I digress.
Our agenda must be spoken into existence and not hidden away to avoid discomfort. It takes courageous leaders from all walks of life to speak truth to power. Too often black elected officials and some black leaders take the safe issues that bear no controversy, like childhood obesity. It’s a problem but that issue isn’t crippling our communities. I can respect the man or woman willing to address black issues and hold true to their convictions than the one who cowards away or concedes to it. If more had the audacity to face their fears and speak from their heart what they know is true, they would see that more people would agree than not. I believe people are too afraid of that challenge.
Our problems manifest from the dirty little word called racism. All the disparities in education, employment, and in the judicial system derive from bias, lack of diversity, and in some cases just outright hate. Since this is reality, we should understand that there is no official position that can remove the human element to want to judge others and rely on our own convictions; therefore we should always have methods of oversight and transparency, which often leads to fairness.
We also have to control the message. In recent elections the black agenda is barely a topic of discussion. We can discuss and enact laws on immigration reform for Hispanics, gay marriage for gays and lesbians, reproductive health for women, and the distortion of Obamacare as red herring, but not police brutality or double digit unemployment for blacks. Other groups who are committed to raising awareness and enacting laws, get their interests to a national platform, and we must do the same.
I am most disappointed with the narrative shifting from the Ferguson, MO uprising to the militarization of the police force. The uproar was about police brutality, not so much why the military is supplying police departments with weapons. I see the message shifting from the main point. I don’t really care that police have access to military weapons as long as they are trained and using them against terrorist, or maybe a zombie apocalypse, but not on citizens enacting their first amendment right. This is why it is important for our communities to control the message when it involves issues concerning black people. If we don’t control our message the media will create it for us. If we don’t demand what we need from politicians they will tell us what they think we want, which is never the solution we’re looking for.
We must cultivate leaders to be in position of authority and power. Young people have always been the catalyst in a movement. They were fearless, out spoken, and strategist during hostile times in the pass and we must be the same in our hostile times of today. Our current leaders have to be ready and willing to past the torch but not without the wisdom to set the foundation to succeed. People must not be afraid to lead and others have to be willing to follow. We may not agree on everything but the areas where we do agree we must remain united. Often the change we want to see is within us. I recently ran for elected office for precinct executive for my party. I won my election and now I can bring forth issues to my party that they might have overlooked in the past because there weren’t enough people that look like me to represent. A single mom with three kids, the last thing I need is more work, but for the greater good I’m willing to make the life style change in order to bring forth change. How about you?
Do you think voting can bring change; if so, why? If not, why?