Illustration by Nikkolas Smith
activism, reminders

Showing Up

In case you’ve got protest fatigue, in case you’re questioning the impact this is all having, in case you’re feeling overwhelmed – here’s a growing list of reforms that are a direct result of what’s happening right now. In other words: no protests, no reforms.

It’s crucial we carry this momentum into the election, especially since Trump and the Republicans are doing everything they can to prevent as many people from voting as possible. Some organizations doing the good work right now:

  • SPLC is investing majorly in voter mobilization in the South.
  • The Majority Rules is working to end gerrymandering, ensure fair elections and dismantle the electoral college.
  • And Black Lives Matter.com is a hub of information and inspiration – a jumping off point for anyone looking to get more involved.

The way you show up to do the work will look different than the way others show up, but showing up… that’s what’s key. Protest works. Having conversations with loved ones works. Voting works. Reform is happening. And yes, setbacks will come. But change is here. And your voice (no matter how small or ineffective you might think it is) is essential. It ripples out in ways you’ll never directly know. It matters a great great deal.

When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government. And yes, we should be fighting to make sure that we have a president, a Congress, a U.S. Justice Department, and a federal judiciary that actually recognize the ongoing, corrosive role that racism plays in our society and want to do something about it. But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.

It’s mayors and county executives that appoint most police chiefs and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with police unions. It’s district attorneys and state’s attorneys that decide whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct. Those are all elected positions. Unfortunately, voter turnout in these local races is usually pitifully low, especially among young people – which makes no sense given the direct impact these offices have on social justice issues, not to mention the fact that who wins and who loses those seats is often determined by just a few thousand, or even a few hundred, votes.

So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. 

Barack Obama, 6/1/20

🎨: “Reflect” by Nikkolas Smith, 2020

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