I’ve been following the news coverage about the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson fairly closely. It continues a disturbing pattern of systemic inequality against minorities in America:
- police brutality, differential enforcement and sentencing
- economic injustice in hiring and advancement, as well as in access to credit
- disparity in the educational resources in communities of color
- environmental injustice in the siting of polluting industries
These big picture issues recurred in the more personal stories of racism and exclusion I’d heard from people of color in my own church community during conversations in response to a call for a Sacred Conversation on Race by our denomination (United Church of Christ) in the wake of the 2008 Presidential campaign.
As I wrestle with the question of how I can personally improve the situation, I think about three steps that I encourage others to consider as well:
- Raise my personal consciousness of the situation. Pay attention to the news, read books like The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and listen to the stories of people of other races.
- Cultivate friendships that cross not only race boundaries but economic ones as well.
- Speak out against injustice. Quite frankly, this still scares me. I find it easier to speak out by writing a check than I do by saying something in person or email. So, if Citizens United establishes contributions as voice, then my voice will not be silent. Here are organizations that I believe are prodding or supporting much-needed change:
- Independent media, like Democracy Now and Women’s eNews.
- Groups that provide reforms to criminal justice system, to move it in the direction of restorative justice, such as the National Center for Crime and Delinquency (NCCD)
- Organizations that advocate for oppressed communities (The Organization for Black Struggle, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR))
- Organizations that provide services to reduce inequality and bring together people of different races and circumstances (these tend to be community-based. If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, a few are Harbor House Ministries, Youth Community Service (YCS), and Ecumenical Hunger Program (EHP))
- Political efforts to reduce the impact of big dollar donations in campaigning and lobbying (Move to Amend)
I’m still in the early stages of this new awareness, and I have yet to take all of my own advice, but I’d welcome additional suggestions for organizations or other ideas you have on making a difference.