12 Things Americans Can Do To Reject Injustice in 2017
Written by Benjamin Hawes
I cannot help but think about the current state of America when reflecting on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. When I consider the difference between MLK and myself, it comes down to putting my money where my mouth is. As passionate about the mistreatment of so many people under our government as I am, MLK was a do-er, and historically, I have not been.
But the 2016 election has forever changed me, and I cannot remain silent. My thought has been “what can I do?” I already know what I believe, and I know what I want to achieve, and I know why. But how does one truly make a difference in this land?
I sat down with Jess and Sam, who are a couple of my friends who have similar plans. We met to discuss this question. We asked ourselves, “what can we do?” I was motivated by the ideas we came up with and wanted to share our ideas with the rest of you, on this day we spend celebrating a leader who saw injustice and worked hard to do something about it.
Below is our list of things that we can do, as citizens.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -MLK
1. We can stay very informed.
How many times have you been standing in a group of people, and someone throws out a fact or current event that you have never even heard of? This happens to me ALL the time. The problem is that if I don’t keep myself informed, I have no way to challenge that person. They could be totally correct, or totally incorrect, and I would never know. We want to make sure that we do our best to read/watch/listen to valid news so that we can help to challenge ideas that need to be challenged.
2. We can fact check, and read opposing news stories.
“Fake news” is being thrown around now like no other, and we want to make sure we can check ourselves all the time. We don’t have any interest in reading or spreading fake news. We also think it’s important to consume news from opposing sides of every issue. We know that there’s bias in news, and we want to do our best to read both sides and form our own views and action plans.
3. We can engage in difficult conversations, even if they rock the boat.
From a very young age, we’re told not to talk about politics. A lot of us followed that, and now a lot of us have a president we aren’t excited about. It’s because we let ideas go unchallenged in order to be polite, in order to not rock the boat. We think it’s important to have civil discussions with all people, even people who disagree with us. Especially people who disagree with us. Even if we know they won’t change us, and we won’t change them, we think it’s important to challenge ideas and even allow our own ideas to be challenged. Moving forward means being educated, and understanding where both sides are coming from.
4. We can attend community meetings.
A mistake I have made in the past is believing that all change happens at the federal level, which is not the case. We talked about how we can attend community meetings and public forums, even if that just means watching them live on Facebook. If we have the chance to vote on something and speak on anything, we should take those opportunities to do that.
5. We can attend conferences, speeches, and other local events.
There are so many changemakers all over this nation. And a lot of times, they hold speaking events. We want to go to those. I am able to see these events by following influencers and causes I care about on twitter and facebook. These are smart, iconic people who are willing to share their ideas with us. We can use these events as inspiration and guidance when we think of our own next steps.
6. We can call our congresspeople whenever we want.
This is a big one for me. Jess gave me instructions on how I can contact my congressperson whenever I think something is wrong. Or even when I think something is right. We discussed the fact that emails and tweets don’t make much of an impact, but taking 2 minutes to pick up the phone and call them actually makes a HUGE difference. I saved my representative’s office phone number to my phone so that the moment I read something, I can give a quick call.
7. We can use our social media platforms, but not only our social media platforms.
Sam spoke about how we have unique positions through social media because we have a lot of friends who disagree with us. We don’t believe in deleting people who disagree with us. We believe in engaging with and listening to people who have different views than us. We want to use our platforms to reach all people, not only people who already agree with us. Social media is an awesome tool, but we know that it doesn’t allow us to work as hard as we are motivated to work. We think it’s important to leave the internet and also physically attend events and gatherings that we believe in.
8. We can march for what we believe in.
Bill aside, there was an episode of the Cosby show that moved me. It was an episode where all of Theo’s grandparents sat him down to talk about their experience marching on Washington. They were able to tell their stories of how they made a difference. I’m really inspired by the idea that one day I will be able to look back and say that I helped. Marching is a really powerful way to do that, and when these opportunities to influence come to us, we plan to take them.
9. We can donate money to causes we believe in.
There are some things that we don’t know how to solve. And for those things, we want to support the experts who know how to help. There are also organizations we really want to support. It’s important to move off social media and donate even small amounts to causes and organizations we care about. I’m 24, and I don’t have that much money to spare, but for some organizations, I decided to donate the dollar amount of one trip to Chipotle per month. I feel better donating something rather than nothing. And when we can’t donate money, we can donate our time by volunteering.
10. We can help with future elections.
When I look back at our 2016 election, I know that I didn’t do my part. We realized that we were too comfortable and we didn’t put in the work to influence the outcome that was best for our nation. But like I previously mentioned, this election has forever changed me. I now understand that in future elections, I am capable of volunteering my time and my passion toward getting the best people in office. We feel an obligation to be a part of future elections, small and large.
11. We can vote at every chance we have.
This is simple: Every election matters, and there’s never a time we shouldn’t make our voices heard. We should vote, and we should encourage our fellow Americans to do so as well.
12. We should remain active regardless of who the president is.
In President Obama’s farewell speech, he helped us see that we are the people who can make a difference. We are the people who make decisions and take actions and influence outcomes in our world. It’s important that we take on this role as citizens and truly create change. He said that if we don’t like what is going on in the country, that we should “grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office.” We agree, and we are rolling up our sleeves because we have work to do, we have rights to defend, and we have a legacy and a future to fight for.
“I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.” -Barack Obama
So, as we think about honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr, we believe it comes down to getting down and dirty and working really hard. We think it means turning our own dreams into our own actions. Please share this article, and let us know what you plan to do to make 2017 matter!
Thanks for reading!
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