black power fist, how to effect social change as a black person

To All the People Who Wanted to Call in Black This Week

Being Black in America is hard.

It’s one of those sad little facts most Black people come to terms with at one point in time or another. (Other facts include needing to look as non-threatening as possible at all times and keeping your hands out of your pocket at grocery stores, but we digress.)

This week, unfortunately, has been a testament to how hard and unfair it is to be Black in the U.S. Two more hashtags have flooded social media and before we just dismiss them as horribly timed back-to-back isolated incidents, we need to remember the humanity behind Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

Alton Sterling Philando Castile

They are not incidents. They were people. And now, they’re gone.

President Obama gave words to the emotions of many in two statements after Castile’s killing:

“…When incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our fellow citizenry that feels as if because of the color of their skin they are not being treated the same. And that hurts. And that should trouble all of us. This is not just a black issue. It’s not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about; all fair minded people should be concerned.”


“…What’s clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve.

To admit we’ve got a serious problem in no way contradicts our respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day. It is to say that, as a nation, we can and must do better to institute the best practices that reduce the appearance or reality of racial bias in law enforcement.”

Drake put it well in an open letter he penned on Instagram: “No one begins their life as a hashtag.”

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are more than just something catchy to share online in an effort to appear “woke.” These two Black men were another example of how Black people are seen as more violent, intimidating, and threatening than their White counterparts.

By this point, you’ve probably already seen the footage. We will not post it here.

But we’re so post-racial, right? Wrong.

To paraphrase Tamela Mann, truth is we’re tired.

We’re tired of wanting to call in Black to work.

We’re tired of dead Black bodies being presented as spectacles on social media and television in the same way crowds gathered around public lynchings in the 20th century. These videos are not the latest memes to spread haphazardly.

We’re tired of Black people’s grief being seen as commonplace.

We’re tired of having to explain why that’s a problem.

We’re tired of people considering a criminal record a license to kill a Black person.

We’re tired of this attack on Black America.

We’re tired of the fact things will soon enough go back to “normal” but, deep down, we know the same thing will happen in a few months. Or maybe even days.

We’re tired of having to avoid Devil’s advocates on Facebook.

And this goes without saying, but the answer is not more violence. Snipers shot at least 12 Dallas police officers  and killed five of them during protests. Shooting and killing police officers in retaliation is not the solution. Sane people know this.

As President Obama said in response to the events in Texas, there is “no possible justification” for this “vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.”

It’s more important now than ever before for us to stand up and make ourselves heard. But how can we do this?

  • Protest peacefully.
  • Surround yourself by like-minded people and rally behind the cause.
  • Join your local social justice organizations such as the National Urban League, NAACP, etc.
  • Whatever your faith, pray. If you have none, meditate. We need positive thoughts.
  • Educate yourself. Here are a few books to read that are still so relevant: “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin, and “Feminism Is for Everyone” by bell hooks.
  • Serve your community. We need more Black and Brown faces in positions of power. We need more allies from all groups.
  • Talk about how you’re feeling with family and friends.
  • Write letters to your legislators and congress members.

It’s time we step out from behind our computers and act.

We’re tired. But we can’t give up.

black lives matter

Image via chainsawsuit

How else can we effect social change? Sound off in the comments.

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