How many people do you know who are super focused and undistracted in their efforts to dismantle racist and oppressive systems? If you are like us, probably close to zero.
The overwhelm is real. There are fires everywhere. This iteration of the movement for Black lives and sweeping social change is happening during a global pandemic, during a huge presidential election year, and there are a million worthy ways to contribute and show up.
It is our hope that this blog may give you a little sense of how we can focus our attention and ultimately be more impactful in the realm of anti-racist and social justice work. To be clear, this blog is focused on understanding and advocating for change through legislation. Much of the work we need to do happens on an internal level and in our closest relationships at home, work, and in our communities.
One thing we have noticed is that, at least in our social channels, politically, there is a lot of focus on city issues (such as those pertaining to city councils, mayors, and police departments) and national issues (like the upcoming presidential and US congressional races). Oh, and then, there’s the whole rest of the world! And how about state-wide issues? Or following individual cases, for instance of wrongful conviction or rights violations. Where do those come into play? How can we possibly keep track of everything happening and know how to show up and advocate in the best and most-informed way?
Here at YBB we try to stay informed of all the systems that impact our students. We have students in federal detention, state prisons, county jails, and many on community supervision. However, the vast majority of our students, and those incarcerated throughout the US, are in state prisons. Much of incarceration is driven by laws set by state legislators. Therefore, at YBB, we choose to focus on mostly state-wide issues: like legislation that addresses youth sentencing practices, legal financial obligations that keep people in debt far beyond their release from prison, three-strike mandatory minimums that disproportionately sentence black people to die in prison (like our incarcerated teacher Greg, featured in an article on this topic), and bringing a new and improved parole system back to WA state. (Yes, Washington State disbanded our parole board in 1984 and is only one of fourteen states without parole.)
We are a tiny team and we can only learn and do so much, just as you are only one person. We believe that we can show up and advocate more effectively when we dive deep into understanding the issues and build relationships with people who influence decisions. And these are really hard to do when we are scattered in so many different realms and issue areas. For us, by focusing on mass incarceration and the criminal legal system, and putting most of our effort into understanding and speaking out about state issues, we can more effectively help create change, and not burn out in the process–we hope!
What do you care about? Is there an issue that fuels your fire? Healthcare, education, the environment, immigration, food access? Take any issue area and we guarantee you there are racial disparities in outcomes. Can you dive into understanding this issue through an antiracism lens? Can you choose among city, state, and national issues and policies? Who are the black and brown leaders doing change work in this area, on this level? How can you uplift and support their work and voices. What actions are they suggesting you take?