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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/1/20

Civil Rights During a Pandemic- How to Take Action

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"People can't get that image of George Floyd having the life choked out of him by a police officer, who was supposed to protect and serve our community. But this also is a reminder that we are living in a country that has truly, for a long time, brutalized African-Americans, from slavery, to lynching, to Jim Crow, to mass incarceration, and now to police brutality. And, in Minneapolis, where we have of the worst racial disparities, people are also understanding that there has been severe social and economic neglect in our communities. And so we have real work to do to heal, to begin to rebuild, and to figure out a system that works for all of us."

-Congresswoman Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar
Ilhan Omar
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Omar has been the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional distric t, which includes Minneapolis, since 2019. She is the first Somali-American, the first naturalized citizen from Africa, and the first woman of color to hold elective office from Minnesota.

How can we start? Michael Crawford, MoveOn's Cultural Director, offers some ideas:

I am a Black man, and, like George Floyd, I grew up in Houston. I've seen with my own eyes how Black people, especially those of us who live in poor communities, are treated and mistreated by police officers who have sworn to "protect and serve."

The murder of Mr. Floyd wasn't an isolated incident. In fact, it's not the only police killing of Black people in recent months. The cases are too many to name, and they include these:

  • On March 13, in Louisville, KY, police officers burst into the home of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American emergency room technician, and shot her eight times.
  • On May 28, in Tallahassee, FL, police shot and killed Tony McDade, a Black transgender man.

This is far from the first time we've been at this crossroads as a nation. No matter what you have done before-- if you've been in the streets demanding justice for Black lives or if you are just now feeling the urgency to do your part to correct this injustice-- there is a place for you now.

There are no easy answers, as is usually the case when we're confronted with racist policies that have metastasized into a system that dehumanizes Black people and values our lives less than white lives. The police killings of Mr. Floyd, Ms. Taylor, and Mr. McDade are part of a history of violence against Black people that is as old as America itself, and it won't be solved with one petition, one tweet, or one statement by a politician.

All across the country, hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets in powerful ways. Not everyone can protest in-person in this moment with the continuing threats of the coronavirus pandemic and police violence. The only person who can decide your risk level is you.

If you are looking for ways to take action from home, here are a few suggestions from MoveOn staff of concrete actions you can take:

  1. Join the work of vital Black-led and civil rights institutions, like Color of Change (whose petition for justice for George Floyd has now been signed by 400,000 MoveOn members); the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which is on the ground in Minneapolis; and Fair Fight, the group led by Stacey Abrams to battle voter suppression and expand voting access. If you haven't yet signed Color of Change's petition, add your name, and then share it with friends and family. And look for an email with other organizations you can support later this week.
  2. Share antiracist articles on Facebook and social media, and educate yourself and your community in the process. You can find plenty of resources on this page intended for white allies and compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein. It may--and should--lead to some challenging conversations.
  3. Act locally and demand your city officials hold police departments in your city accountable--from oversight of their actions to taking measures to reduce their funding. Check out this article in Saturday's New York Times for more insight into the need to reduce and defund police departments. This is one place where local government, the folks closest to home, can have powerful influence to make change. Find the phone number of your mayor, city council, or police department to demand restraint in the face of protests, oversight of police actions, and steps to demilitarize and defund police departments. Or start your own petition here.
  4. Read and share my op-ed: "If you're a white person wondering what to do during the George Floyd protests, I have some advice." In it I write, "It's crucial that you move from 'not racist' to becoming an antiracist. This begins with acknowledging that growing up in a racist society means you have taken in those ideas and that they have shaped your thoughts, feelings and actions."
  5. Be a voter by registering, committing to vote yourself, and encouraging friends to vote. Voting isn't the end-all of how we create an America for all. It is an important part of a larger strategy to make our vision of the future a reality. You can check your voter registration status and register to vote here.

If you do decide to take part in street protest to demand justice for George Floyd, here are some resources that will help you stay as safe as possible:

"The murder of George Floyd in my district is not a one-off event. We cannot fully right these wrongs until we admit we have a problem. As the People's House, the House of Representatives must acknowledge these historical injustices and call for a comprehensive solution. There are many steps on the path to justice, but we must begin to take them."

-Ilhan Omar

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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