Opinion: Individual actions are powerful agents of social change

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As a writer for a news organization, I have a unique platform to use my voice to support the causes that matter to me. The recent killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police that sparked countless protests across the nation, shedding light on the long-neglected history of police brutality and systemic racism in America, drove me to start using my voice and my privilege for good. Yet, when presented with the opportunity to write about it, I dawdled. I had no idea where to start, what to say or even how to address the issue as a white person without “making it about me.” 

Nevertheless, as I continued to educate myself about such a complex and widespread problem, I realized there are a number of ways to become a positive agent for change despite one’s individual circumstances. Fighting for justice is a continued, collective effort. In order to become part of that collective, one must first focus on his or her individual ability to become a better person and foster a better community. 

I was lucky enough to immerse myself in sociology and minority studies courses during my first year of college. These classes opened my eyes to a number of social issues in the U.S. and ignited my passion for social activism. I have also utilized social media as both a platform for vocalization and a gateway to educational materials by following activist groups, such as Black Lives Matter and the NAACP, who regularly post informational resources to their social media accounts.   

The first step to bettering yourself is to become educated. If you don’t have the privilege of receiving a college education, there is a plethora of online resources available to teach you about racism, social inequality and methods to combat them. Research the organizations and charities near you that can play a role in bringing education about racial inequality to your community. There are also a number of books written by African American scholars and professionals that aim to educate the public about racism, privilege and inequality in America. A list of some of these books can be found at https://www.businessinsider.com/books-white-privilege-novels-racism-antiracism-black-scholars-2020-6

Once you grasp a better understanding of the issues at hand, find ways to extend your support locally. This can be done through personal interaction — reaching out to family and friends within minority communities, and expressing your support and asking what you can do to help them. These interactions should be dedicated to listening to the concerns of people of color rather than enforcing your own opinion. Ultimately, they are the ones truly affected by racial inequality. 

It is our job to be an active, outspoken support system designed to lift up people of color; we are all united in the fight against oppression and inequality. Your community may be home to religious organizations and nonprofits dedicated to providing for minorities while promoting awareness and acceptance. Search for donation or volunteer opportunities within these organizations that allow you to utilize your privilege and resources for community betterment.

Another way to get involved in the fight against racial inequality is to take political action. Voting, protests and lobbying politicians are all options for citizens to incite change within local, state and national governments. If you notice a change that needs to be made, whether it be in policy or leadership, contact your local officials and urge them to take action. A list of ways to contact elected officials can be found at https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

It is the responsibility of government representatives to respond to the needs and concerns of their constituents, but those needs and concerns must first be expressed in a manner that attracts attention to the cause – peaceful protests, organizing call-ins to local officials, etc. Know your rights as a citizen and which methods you are able to utilize to encourage political action against racial inequality. 

These are just a fraction of the general ways in which you can fulfill your call to action against individual and institutional racism. In the past several weeks, protests and call-ins to Minneapolis officials led to the arrest of the officers responsible for the death of George Floyd. Police departments across the country have instituted policy reform, such as Breonna’s Law in Louisville following the killing of Breonna Taylor, which limits the actions of police officers in carrying out warrants and arrests. Nevertheless, we still have a long way to go.

Fighting this fight is not a short-lived effort. It takes time, perseverance and dedication. Be consistent. Seek education. Take action. It is easy to become jaded and overwhelmed by the current state of our country, but lasting change will only occur if we seek it fervently and without compromise. 

Centuries of oppression and inequality have seeped their way into our communities and institutions, taking an unending toll on people of color. The time for that oppression to be acknowledged, amended and permanently eradicated is now. 

Photos courtesy of Unsplash

For more information on racial inequality and how you can help, please consult the following resources:

https://www.racialequitytools.org/home

https://www.knowyourrightscamp.com/who-we-are

https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/

https://www.naacp.org/empowerment-programs/

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