Expressing rage and pain over what happened in Ferguson, Missouri seems wholly inadequate. Making this column space about my thoughts and feelings is also inappropriate. The focus should be on anti-racism and justice.
If you are unsettled by what you have seen this past week, take action. Here are some ways to do it. Some ideas will help Ferguson directly; other actions will help prevent it from happening elsewhere. By no means is this a comprehensive list. Some actions are obvious. Supporting anti-racism organizations or joining protests are certainly effective. This list is in addition to those actions. If you have positive contributions to make, feel free to add them.
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- There is no reason why a police uniform should not include a wearable camera. While there are questions about data storage, privacy and department policy, studies indicate use-of-force incidents dropped when police officers were equipped with these devices. You can sign the online petition at Change.org to require Ferguson and St. Louis County and City cops to wear body cameras.
- Research whether the police are wearing body cameras in your own community. If not, then advocate for change. If your local law enforcement uses cameras, ask about usage and storage policies.
- Natalie Dubose opened her small business, Natalie’s Cakes & More, a few months ago. She invested her life savings into her shop. During the riots, her bakery was damaged. Rather than wait for help, she started a GoFundMe campaign. In two days, she raised over $250,000 from donations around the world. Based on Dubose’s success, other Ferguson small business owners have started GoFundMe campaigns.
- Juanita Morris, owner of Fashions R Boutique, lost her shop after it was burned to the ground. Her GoFundMe campaign is focused on restarting her 28-year business.
- Jun Hee Lee has started a GoFundMe campaign for his parents, owners of Beauty World. A bomb was thrown in their store during the riots.
- You can find more campaigns here.
- The Ferguson Public Library stayed open this past week. As a result, children had a safe place to rest and relax. Librarians also helped residents process their emotions. The library’s director, Scott Bonner, told Talking Points Memo, “I’ve had one or two people come in and just basically cry to me because of what happened last night, how they’re feeling about it and how tough it is for them… And we’ve had a whole lot of volunteer teachers come in here with this drive to help people, bring that kind of optimism in.” You can donate the library through their website, on the upper right-hand corner PayPal button.
- Ferguson Youth Initiative is a nonprofit dedicated to helping children and teens in their community. Through volunteer work and service, young people learn valuable skills to enhance their future. The group also partners with other youth programs in the area. To donate time or money, go to their website.
- KDSK, News Channel 5 from St. Louis, reports Ferguson’s police department had a diversity problem. Out of 53 officers, only three were African-American. But Ferguson’s population is 67 percent African-American.”We hire everyone that we can get,” Ferguson Mayor James Knowles told KDSK. “There’s also the problem that a lot of young African American people don’t want to go into law enforcement. They already have this disconnect with law enforcement, so if we find people who want to go into law enforcement who are African American we’re all over it because we want them to help us bridge the gap.”The New York Times looked at 16 metropolitan regions in the US, comparing the diversity of the population versus the police departments. Lack of diversity in law enforcement is a nationwide concern.
- Does law enforcement reflect the diversity of your community? If not, it’s time to nudge city leaders into developing more aggressive recruitment strategies. Also, consider supporting criminal justice scholarships for people of color.
- According to the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2013 American Values Survey, White American social networks are 91% white. About 75% of White Americans have no people of color in their social networks. Black American social networks, on average, are 65% homogenous.
- If you are white, then widen your social media contacts. Start listening to people who are different from you. If your Facebook, Twitter and other media are an echo chamber of your own background and beliefs, then you are part of the problem.
- A year from now, will you still care? Be in it for the long haul.