In my social circles online and in person, I’ve seen and heard people wondering what they can do in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. I certainly can’t claim to speak for the movement, but from what I’ve heard and read from other participants, I’ve compiled a short, non-exhaustive list of policies you can support to end police profiling, brutality, and impunity against Black folks in the US.
Of course, changing policy is only one way to take action on this issue. At the heart of this is changing the value placed on Black lives, by society, by individuals, and by institutions. There are also non-policy-focused ways you can affect change, like helping change attitudes among your personal social network,donating to organizations leading the movement or to the victims and victims’ families, speaking out publicly against racism whenever you see it, and participating in actions out in the streets. If you’re White and wondering what to do, here are twelve ideas to get you started.
1.Establishing citizen review boards
Citizen review boards with firing power can create consequences for police brutality that the current system fails to do. Here’s one example of what that would look like. I’ve also heard people advocate for a federal division to prosecute local law enforcement violence, perhaps in the Civil Rights section of the Justice Department.
2. Demilitarization of police
Call your Congressional representatives in support of H. R. 5478, to end “Program 1033” which allows the Pentagon to sell war equipment to local police stations. The bill is bipartisan, but right now Congressional Republicans are blocking it. Find out which reps are blocking it and start calling campaigns in their districts. You can also advocate for demilitarization from a local level–find out whether your municipality participates in 1033 and pressure them not to.
3. Ending stop and frisk policies
Stop and frisk programs overwhelmingly target people of color, especially young men of color. More police interactions increases the risk for those interactions to turn violent and creates a constant over-policed background static in the lives of people of color in the US. Check out if your city is doing that, and if so, advocate for them to stop.
4. Ending the war on drugs
Call your Congressional reps about decriminalizing drugs use, legalizing marijuana, and ending US military funding to Mexico, which incidentally is in the midst of their own huge wave of nonviolent protests (check out #yamecanse or #ayotzinapa on twitter) because the military killed and kidnapped nonviolent student protesters.
5. Ending “poverty fees”
“Poverty fees” like speedtraps, jaywalking fines, etc. account for a large percentage of some municipalities’ budgets, create economic obstacles (and jail time) for those already living in poverty, and incentivize police harassment of communities of color. Even “disorderly conduct,” because it’s so vague, is often disproportionately used against people of color. Call your reps about that. And while you’re at it, look up Monica Jones and call your reps about “manifestation of prostitution” charges used to profile trans women of color as well.
6. Ending “jump outs”
“Jump outs” are a police tactic in which an unmarked police car full of officers in street wear targets citizens for unwarranted searches or interrogations. The way they’re used is racially biased, constitutionally questionable, and militarized. Here’s an example of a petition to end them in DC.
7. Police body cams
As we tragically see with the failure to indict Eric Garner’s killer, video documentation of police violence does not always result in legal consequences for the officers involved. There are several shortcomings of body cams as a solution to police violence, and impunity, but I believe that in concert with other policies they can make a difference. Some areas (like DC, where I live) already have pilot programs or full programs in place, but many don’t. Check out what the body-cam situation is where you live and then call your representatives in the city government in support of it.
I’ve mostly written “call your reps” but of course there are lots of levels of action on any of these specific policies. Check out parts one and two of our How to Citizen series for some ideas. Use google to find organizations that work on them, and ask what help they need. Organize your friends to call their reps. Write a letter to the editor (or for a blog?). If a policy isn’t an issue where you live but is somewhere else, you can still phone bank or volunteer or contact friends/family who live there. Create art about the issue, and put it where people will see it (or read it). Organize a teach-in. You’re probably a badass, intelligent, capable person and I’m sure you can brainstorm even more ways than what I came up with right now, but it’s a start. Use the comments section to let us know what you end up doing–and if there are any policies we missed!