June 29, 2020 NEWSLETTER

Three Easy Steps to Promote Racial Justice in an Election Year

Rebecca Collins, CRSJ Summer Intern

Equal justice for all. That was the vision for America outlined more than two hundred years ago that still has not been fully achieved. The myth of racial difference has led to discrimination, continued segregation, and criminalization that endures today. Though progress in this country has been made through generations of activism and civil rights movements, we must acknowledge that there is still work to be done. We continue to strive towards equality and justice for all. While this is a considerable issue to tackle, there are many ways to get involved.

Here are three steps that you can take this election year to promote racial justice.

Pay Attention to Proposed Public Policy and How it Affects Racial Justice

Evaluating policy may seem like a daunting task, but there are a few basic questions that you can ask yourself to better understand what the effect of a specific policy may be. A policy is any law, procedure, or practice put into place by the government or other institutions, and evaluating policy is simply understanding its merit or worth. Policies that may be framed as promoting racial justice and equity do not always have that intended effect.

To understand who is going to benefit and who is going to pay the cost, try to answer these key questions:

  • How is the issue being defined? Who is defining the issue? 

  • Who is being blamed for the problem? Is it appealing to racial fears?

  • What is the core issue? What is the historical context of this issue?

  • What is being proposed as a solution, and who would benefit? 

  • How would this proposal affect people of color? How would it affect white people? 

  • How would it affect women? Young people? Poor and working people? 

  • What are the other options for addressing this issue? 

Evaluate Your Local Candidates 

As a country, we put a lot of weight on presidential elections. While these are certainly important, local and state elections often have a greater influence on serving justice in your community. From your local school board to your city government, and every other elected position in between, there is a direct connection to promoting racial justice. This year, you have an opportunity to vote for candidates that will be instrumental in handling this key civil rights issue. Truly evaluating whether or not a candidate will promote racial justice requires more than taking what they may say at face value.

Here are some easy questions you can ask to help decide what candidates you may choose to support:

  • Who have they professed solidarity with?

  • Who benefits from the policies that they advocate for? 

  • Who finances their campaign?

  • Do they seem to understand the interconnections of racism, sexism, and economics?

  • Will they represent the interests of the most disenfranchised groups in the community?

  • Are they willing to work for long-term, structural change in our society?

Use Your Findings to Take Action

Now that you’re equipped with a set of tools to help you decide what policies and candidates promote racial justice, you can do something about it.

Take action on policy. Talk to your lawmakers about specific policy and whether or not you want them to support it. Contact your senators, representatives, governorstate legislators, mayor, county executive, local government, or any other elected officials and talk to them about how you, as their constituent, want them to vote on a specific policy. Talk to your friends and family about what you’ve learned, and encourage them to evaluate policy in their area. Spread the word about which policies promote racial justice and why you support them. Do the same about those that don’t. Start a conversation in your community about the potential benefits or harm to racial justice that could come from a proposed local policy. Attend local town halls or public input meetings to share your voice. Have an idea about a policy that could benefit racial justice? Propose your own policy and send it to your officials.  

Participate in Elections. Register to vote. Encourage your friends and loved ones to register as well. Find out where to go on election day and whether or not you need an ID. Make sure you know the procedures for your local and state elections as well. Before election day, you can get involved in promoting candidates that you believe in. Share resources on candidates in your community. Donate or campaign for candidates that will promote racial justice, and talk about why you support them. Start conversations about why racial justice needs to be addressed in your community, and why the candidate you support is the right person to tackle these issues. Is there no candidate that you think is standing for racial justice? Consider your own run for office