“Ok, I see there is a problem, but now what?”
Whether it is the life expectancy of black males, mass incarceration, capital punishment, police brutality, privatization of prisons, or another racial injustice that breaks your heart the next logical question is, “How do I fix it?”
I understand not everyone will decide to change their career and become a police officer. However, there are practical methods to enact justice available to anyone willing to pursue them. The tactic that appeals to you the most will likely align with your natural talents, skills, and abilities. Trust your gut. Are you good at organizing people for a peaceful protest? Are you comfortable going door-to-door for a candidate or cause that you hold dear? Do you have a heart for hospitality and a home to welcome a group of fellow broken hearts in for dialogue and bread breaking?
You must identify the specific racial injustice that is keeping you awake at night. As you study the struggle for civil rights or the issues facing Americans of all colors today, which one hurts the worst when you learn about it? That is a good start.
Then localize it. Where is that problem happening in your proximity? Our communities are cross-sections of America at-large. America is nothing more than a collection of communities like the one you live in. Where in your neighborhood are people being unfairly treated and marginalized?
Humanize it. An injustice becomes personal when it gets a name. Find the neighbor in your community who has felt the injustice your privilege has protected you from. Meet them. Learn from them. Cry with them. Share a meal with them. What could someone have done to stop the hurt before it happened? How can you fix a system that is systematically crushing the unseen?
Is anyone already trying to fix it? What are they doing right and wrong? Wisdom is learning from mistakes and building on successes. There are likely community groups, faith organizations, and coalitions in your area that have begun the long march of justice in your area code. Do the hard thing and show up. Introduce yourself and your aching spirit. The group has likely prayed for workers to help tend to the fields. You are an answer to someone’s prayers. You will be welcome if you are teachable and willing to struggle for the cause.
Emotion propels us but vision sustains us. As you begin your work it is vital that the broken heart begins to turn to a vision of opportunity and idealism. As you march, meet, advocate, and love, you should believe that success is achievable.
I go to work as an officer each day believing I can change the world. I understand in my head this is a practical impossibility. However, my heart knows that I possess the ability to loosen the tension between the black community and law enforcement and heal centuries of pain in one home, in one heart, on one block. If I bring healing to one, I can bring healing to many. I don’t think it’s naïve that I feel this. I believe it is a vision of a brighter future for the next generation that I am building on the backs of the saints and martyrs that went before me.
Now that you have your broken heart, go fix it. Whether or not it remotely resembles a race issue the framework presented is universal.
Poverty, violence, human trafficking, depression, suicide, abortion, civil liberties, climate change, religious freedom, LGBTQ+ equality, healthcare reform, veteran’s benefits, mental illness, or the one that I didn’t mention while you were hoping I would.
Go. Fix it. Now.
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”