First and foremost, let’s be clear: we need a revolution. We (black people in the United States of America) need to get up and demand a complete overhaul of just about everything. The criminal justice system needs to stop targeting us with more frequent arrests and harsher sentencing. Police officers need to stop shooting us dead in the streets. Banks need to stop giving us subprime loans (or baselessly denying them altogether) and continuing the legacy of redlining. Healthcare needs to be accessible to all. Schools need to teach our children instead of pushing them out to the criminal justice system as soon as possible. Violence against us needs to be punished instead of excused and/or celebrated. The list of demands is long.
What do we do in the interim, though? While demanding change and educating others do we opt out of everything we have been doing up to this point? Should we take an all or nothing approach, or travel on parallel paths simultaneously?
Many believe we should work within the system that is currently available. This means we participate in the political process, vote with our spending dollars, and make our wishes known to those in power, even trying to become powerful by running for political offices. Those who advocate for this approach see it as the best and most lasting way to enact change. Their mantra is “We have a good system. We just need to make it work for us.” Those who abhor this approach; however, rightfully remind us this system was not created with our best interest in mind in the first place. They insist it is futile to try to work within a system literally built to kill you. Colonialism, imperialism and racism are inextricably tied together so that any attempt to dissolve the bond will dissolve everything, including this very country.
Others believe that dissolution is exactly what we need. In order to create a place where we are truly free, we must first destroy the place that cannot stop itself from harming us. That requires revolution. Difficult, uncomfortable, unmitigated revolution. This group believes there is no way to ever be truly free in this country unless we burn it down and start over from scratch. It’s easy to imagine what opponents of this ideology would say. Very few people are willing to endure the sacrifices required of revolutionaries.
In the words of precocious three-year-olds everywhere, why not both? Why can’t we engage in whittling away at injustices one by one as we prepare to demolish them for once and for all? Why not vote every time a vote is taken to make sure your voice is heard, while understanding this act may be a temporary band aid to real change? Why not invest in black-owned businesses now, so that the revolution can be properly funded by our own community? Why would we not volunteer to sit on juries in order to hold rogue officers accountable now and ensure our people aren’t railroaded and sent to prison at alarming rates?
Yes, the game is rigged and the deck stacked against us, but that doesn’t mean we refuse to play when our very lives are at stake. Regardless of how we got here, this is our home, too. We have every right to fight for justice from within and without. We need people with experience in all levels of government, education, finance, and law enforcement, and not because we are naïve enough to believe they can save us. We need them because we need all hands on deck, working towards the same goals. When we have a common vision, everyone can do their part so that when the dust settles, we can build a society that works for us.