In the past week, I have been involved in many conversations about protests and riots in America. Each conversation was different. But they revealed a common dislike of institutional and individual racism.
These discussions about minorities, murder, rioting, and looting went here and there, from the rights of the oppressed to the rights of the store owners, from the rights of the police to use force to the rights of George Floyd and his family, from the rights of the community members to the rights of the protesters. That was, until I suggested that we stop going around and around on the issues we disagreed on. I suggested instead that we focus on the singular issue in these conversations that we — and most people in this country — agree on: Institutional racism should end.
But we never took it further, to discuss truly impactful action we can take to help end America’s imbedded bigotry. I wasn’t sure what I could do. March in my small town to protest? Sure, that shows support. Post memes on Facebook? That might add to the conversation. Write a letter to an editor? Who knows what impact that could have? My lack of awareness about worthwhile action steps took a 180-degree turn in another conversation. As a friend and I shared thoughts on the injustice of it all, out of the blue he said:
“I am moving some of my savings to a black-owned bank.”
That was all I needed to research and write this article — to empower you and me to help end systemic discrimination. Maybe someday we will have just “people-owned” banks, but for now redistributing resources to less wealthy minority communities — without any direct financial loss to you or me — is a needed step.
More than 60 percent of the U.S. population is opposed to racism. That means that two out of three of us would like it to end. We know this based on polls and research and social media and conversations among ourselves. So we need not be asking “Are we against racism as a nation?” and “Is looting and rioting acceptable or not?” If the vast majority of us are against discrimination — and we are — we individually should be asking, “What can I do to help end racism?”
This is about shifting capital to those who suffer from discrimination. It is about offering direct help in the fight against racism without increasing taxes or expanding government social programs. It is about doing what we can to actually bring about change, rather than just talking about it. Here are some concrete ideas for doing something about this problem on an individual level.
The first five ideas ask you to put some money where your mouth is. The second five ask you to put your keyboard (or pen) where your mouth is.
This week, if money allows, do one of these:
1) Move some of your money from a savings account and/or checking account to financial institutions that are minority owned and, if possible, are based in harder hit economic areas. You might also be able to get a credit card from a minority-owned financial institution. Here are lists of black-owned banks, Latino-owned credit unions, and Native American financial institutions presently operating in the U.S.
2) Buy goods and services from companies that are minority owned and operate in areas known for having large minority labor pools. If you need or want something, see if it available through a minority owned business. Here are lists of black-, Hispanic-, and Native American-owned businesses in the U.S.
3) Donate to nonprofits that are focused on helping minority populations find work, escape homelessness, provide career training, etc. If you are already giving to other nonprofits, consider shifting your gifts to organizations dedicated to minority rights, such as those found here: https://greatnonprofits.org/categories/view/minority-rights
4) Contribute to scholarship funds that are dedicated to providing higher education opportunities to minority students who come from high-poverty areas. These three organizations take donations from the general public to help fund financial assistance and scholarships for black, Hispanic, and Native American students:
· https://uncf.org/get-involved (Black scholarship program)
· https://donate.hsf.net/en/donate#/donate (Hispanic scholarship program)
· https://standwithnativestudents.org/ (Native American scholarship program)
5) Contribute to the campaign of a candidate who is committed to equal justice and economic opportunities for all people, even if that candidate is not running for office in your state. To do this, simply google “candidates running for __________ (name the office).”
This week, if money is an issue, do one or more of these instead:
6) Write a letter to the elected officials in your state (governor, senator, representative) asking them to create and support enforceable legislation that ensures equal treatment of all people. Do this once a month until you get the response this problem deserves.
7) Write a letter to your federal elected officials (two senators and your House of Representatives congressperson) asking them to create and support enforceable legislation that ensures equal treatment of all people. Do this once a month until you get the response this problem deserves.
8) Join or follow a social media group that is being proactive in the reduction of racism. Here are several to consider: https://variety.com/2020/digital/news/11-anti-racist-accounts-that-are-worth-following-1234621505/
9) Draw attention on social media to companies, schools, funds, and organizations listed in items 1–5 above by posting your own thoughts about these entities — and, if so, the fact that you support them.
10) Write a thank-you letter (or two) or send an email (or two) to organizations working hard on racial equality and injustice. See https://greatnonprofits.org/categories/view/minority-rights to find nonprofits you can support. By offering encouragement and gratitude to these nonprofits, you inspire and uplift the people who run them. This gives them energy to keep doing their good work.
The bottom-line truths are these: We can spend hours each week on social media debating the merits or maliciousness of rioting. We can spend hours each week arguing about bad cops or good cops or black lives mattering more or less than blue lives or all lives. We can spend hours each week showing that we care by posting memes or quotes or images or links to news stories. Or we can do none — or far less — of these things, and do something real and legitimate and life changing instead. The options are listed above. You choose. Then do.
Note: I recognize that discrimination exists against many others beyond the minorities in this article. Time and space do not allow for all to be mentioned here.