Like so many people, I was incredibly disturbed by the murder of George Floyd. I cried until my head ached, and spent several sleepless nights reflecting on what I’d seen and the local, national, and global responses. Protests and riots. Instigation from a cold and cruel president. Armed National Guards marching past my front gate.
It was chaos.
I’m beginning to think that chaos is the only way for marginalized people to get the attention of an oppressive system, but chaos alone cannot lead to long-term change. For this movement to lead to sustainable change, it will require these key elements: coalition building, clear goals, sustaining the engagement of the masses, and strong execution and follow up.
Success will require strong coalitions because no one group can immediately bring about all of the reforms that are necessary to truly create equal treatment, justice, access, and opportunity for black people. That includes changes around policing, criminal justice, the economy, education, as well as social reforms.
These groups should work together to push this movement forward:
Once the key stakeholders are at the table, they’ll need to work together to create a comprehensive plan. They’ll have to come to a consensus on the specific problems, design clear solutions, and outline the process for monitoring the results. This will not be a fast or easy process, and it will require each stakeholder group to go back to their respective communities for input. It will require consideration of the interconnected social, education, and economic factors that impact policing. Additionally, solutions outlined in the comprehensive plan should include both legislative and nonlegislative items. Legislation is vital, but it is not a panacea.
Finding common ground among so many different groups might sound impossible, yet a model for the type of input/feedback process that would be needed was used recently for the 9th District Commercial Corridor Plan. A series of facilitated discussions with a small working group identified key issues, made recommendations, and then shared with the broad community at structured working meetings to get additional input and understand priorities. Then, the final plan was crafted and shared with the community.
In order to move forward, the comprehensive plan must include clear next steps to each of the stakeholder groups. Each group must know specific actions they can take on their own, with little direction. Examples of guidance for individuals could include a call for reform-minded people to join the Police Department, or to organize safe-corridors programs around schools to provide community protection and reduce the need for law enforcement interactions. Or for people who prefer advocacy, it could be making phone calls to politicians or attending City Council hearings around a particular piece of legislation. The tasks should be specific, measurable, based on the communities’ input, and align with the stated mission of the group.
Lastly, because the work of the movement will be long term, there must be a structured process for checking in and sharing updates and progress. This will provide accountability and build credibility.
While the unrest following the George Floyd murder has felt chaotic, this moment can and should be used to create long-term change. It will be hard, but I think we have what it takes. This city, this nation, and black lives depend on it.