It’s that time of year—the time when people make all kinds of promises to themselves in the form of RESOLUTIONS. Resolutions are those things we “resolve” to do and typically include losing weight, exercising, eating better, getting organized and a bunch of things to improve our individual lives. And, typically New Year’s resolutions don’t make it past the month of January. So here at “Black and Smart” there are no New Year’s resolutions. Instead we need to consider a New Year REVOLUTION!
In 2014 we have seen increased attention to the situation of unarmed African Americans being gunned down by law enforcement. These shootings were made more difficult by the failure to indict or convict the officers who did the shootings. They have also sparked massive protests across the country and in some cases around the world. They have energized an entire new generation of young activists.
As excited as I am about this beginning of a movement I hope that we can expand this activism beyond just reaction to timely events and have it be embraced by a generation for a whole host of injustices that have been (and continue to be) visited on the Black community.
My personal bias is the need for an education revolution. Today we are inundated by neo-liberal quick fix, Band-Aid approaches to education when we know we need massive, systemic investment and commitment to educating our children. Here in the 21st century we are still limping along by giving our children 19th century educational skills and knowledge. We don’t seem to care who teaches our children but then complain about the outcomes. The only way we get the decisions we really want is to change the decision makers. That calls for a revolution!
We definitely need a revolution in the justice system. The fact that jails and prisons are over crowded with Black and Brown bodies is in itself a crime. When we investigate the incredible differentials in arrests and sentencing it is clear that the justice system is not working…at least it is not working for us! But we cannot get fair trials with unfair juries and we cannot get fair juries if we are not on the voter rolls. This calls for a revolution!
We need a revolution in employment. The fastest way to avoid arrest and improve educational outcomes is to be a family with adults earning a living wage. When the state of Wisconsin was among the first to do away with state aid in the form of welfare it required mothers with dependent children to either work or receive job training. Just putting mothers in the workforce did little to improve the circumstances for their children. Low wage jobs with terrible hours (e.g. working in Casinos through the night) kept those families in poverty and the children struggling in schools. When the mothers were able to get better paying jobs with more predictable hours and a little more disposable income we began to see improvements in students’ academic performance. This calls for a revolution!
We need a revolution in housing. It is a crime that the U.S. has so many homeless people. Of course this homelessness is often tied to lack of education, lack of employment, and lack of a whole host of human services. But we must find a way to ensure that people have safe, warm places to live. A good society is measured by how it treats “the least of these.” Turning a blind eye to people living on the streets and begging for money has become the norm. This calls for a revolution!
Finally, I will argue that we need a revolution in how we treat one another. We must say no to the “ratchet-ness” that passes for entertainment. That we get some prurient pleasure from watching people “cuss each other out,” fight, take public DNA tests, and demean one another turns my stomach. I have to believe we are better than that. But turning the channel and refusing to watch this foolishness calls for a revolution!
I know it will take time to engage a real revolution. I know that the intensity with which we live our lives—jobs, families, community service, etc.—means that most of us are too tired to do more than plop down in from of the TV at the end of the day and watch whatever. But revolutions require work. They require doing when we are too tired to do. They insist that we keep our shoulders to the millstones and hands to the plow. But revolutions are never solely for us. They are for our children, our children’s children, and all the generations yet to come.
It really is time for a New Year’s Revolution!
Stay Black & Smart!