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One person can make a sustainable difference; but an individual’s measurable impact is diluted if he, she, or they attempts to focus on more complex problems than they can handle. (For more on this, see my post “Mindful Activism: How to Get Started,” and get and stay organized with my free activism tracker.)

While there’s many areas of need that matter to me, I’m focusing my energy on one of them–racial justice–and harnessing my mindfulness practices, writing, coaching, reading, relationships, pro bono work, financial investments and, ultimately, activism to help drive meaningful policy changes within seven core issues:

1. Voting Rights and Access

Voting rights come first for me and get most of my focus amongst these seven core issues.

Why? Without voting you cannot elect people into power who can then enact policy changes correct existing injustices.

Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color are disproportionately removed from voter registration rolls or prevented from registering to vote and voting. BIPOC also face significant bureaucratic and economic hurdles to register, stay registered, and cast their vote.

Solutions I’m learning to fight for: Federal funding to ensure full and safe voter participation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Full restoration of the Voting Rights Act. Expand voter access. Ensure votes of all black people count. End voter intimidation and suppression policies, such as Voter ID laws. Boost civic engagement before and after elections. Ensure full and fair representation in 2020 Census.

2. COVID-19

BIPOC are disproportionately infected with he coronavirus. They also inequitably lack quality health care access and health insurance. Nationwide, Black people are dying of COVID at a rate 2.5 times higher than white people.

Solutions I’m learning to fight for: Reinstate shelter-in-place orders. Enact safety plans for each state before they reopen that includes resources for PPEs for workers. Realtime COVID-19 data disaggregated by county and race. Increased public health model testing, tracing, and treatment, with specific support to communities that are low-income and communities of color. The immediate expansion of Medicaid in each of our states. Enhanced unemployment support for residents that have lost jobs or cannot work.

3. Education Equity

BIPOC continue to experience inequities in access to high-quality education–and these disparities have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Solutions I’m learning to fight for: Address disproportionate COVID-19-related impacts on BIPOC students. Increase diversity and cultural competence in the teaching and school counselor workforce. Fund and require additional curriculum that educates all public school students on the unique histories of BIPOC. Fund and require all states and public school districts to consistently and regularly evaluate disproportionate impacts of standardized testing on BIPOC students. Require all school districts to enact a specific, consistent, and transparent process regarding “advanced” and “special needs” categorization of children, with an emphasis on eliminating inequitable categorization  of BIPOC children.

4. Economics and Employment

BIPOC have disproportionate rates of unemployment and under-employment.

Solutions I’m learning to fight for: Ensure equitable treatment for BIPOC employees in the marketplace. Stop predatory lending and other predatory corporate practices. Build momentum for progressive tax, labor, and education policies.

5. Criminal Justice and Mass Incarceration

Black people are disproportionately arrested, indebted, and incarcerated by the criminal justice system.

Solutions I’m learning to fight for: Hold prosecutors accountable and accelerate prosecutor reform. End money bail. End profit incentives fueling mass incarceration. Decriminalize poverty and stop unnecessary prosecutions. Implement fair sentencing laws and sentence reductions. Stop prison expansion and prison labor exploitation. Stop anti-black violence and vigilantes.

6. Excessive Use of Police Force

Black people have been 28% of those killed by police since 2013 despite being only 13% of the population. Across the U.S., policies governing police department operations often fail to include common-sense limits on police use of force.

Solutions I’m learning to fight for: First and foremost, defund the police. There’s widespread misperception on what “defunding” means. It means restructuring local and state budgets to reinvest in healthcare, employment, education, and housing. It does NOT mean stripping police departments of all their funding. While defunding is the most sustainable solution to the culture of excessive police force, there are numerous, immediate steps that “traditional” police departments must take.

7. Climate Change

I’m learning how to influence policy changes that help the U.S. contribute to reversing the shift in global or regional climate patterns, occurring from the mid-to-late 20th Century onward, attributed largely to increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels. This includes our nation rejoining the 2015 Paris Agreement delineating emissions reduction targets for 2030 and 2050.

Systemic racism and accelerating climate change interact, reinforce, and strengthen each other. Racist policies and practices continue, as they’ve done for more than 400 years, to drive and fund governmental and capitalistic endeavors that marginalize BIPOC. These same individuals are, therefore, more at risk than the rest of the U.S. population to the destruction, disease, and increased poverty that follows severe weather and severe weather events caused by climate change.

BIPOC women, standing at the intersection of racism, patriarchy, and climate change, receive a double-hit and Black transsexual women take a triple-hit.

In Closing

I think a lot about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assertion that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Conversely, I think that addressing one systemic injustice under the umbrella of racism can have an indirect, positive impact many other ones. Reducing racism will help reduce sexism, homophobia, economic oppression, and many other problems.

Click here to learn about some effective non-profits influencing policy change in one or more of these seven core racial justice issues listed above.

 

John M. DeMarco is a writer, executive coach, and activist based in Nashville, Tennessee.