When Hashtag Justice Isn’t Enough

I’m tired of social media justice. We’re all guilty of it. Whoever shares the most compellingly-worded Facebook post wins. We share another GoFundMe page or ask for another electronic signature on a petition that probably never gets read. It’s hashtag justice at its finest. Let’s all pretend we care about the issue by acting as though we’re outraged on social media. If you’re silent, you’re deemed to be complicit.

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Let’s move past it. Do I want my daughter to pat herself on the back for her use of a hashtag? Is that how we make a difference in the world? Maybe it’s because we’re all baffled, unable to act – afraid to act.

Here’s the situation, in case you haven’t heard: black lives are being lost at a disproportionately high rate at the hands of officers of the law – the very people who are trained to protect us. So far, around 136 black lives have been lost at the hands of law enforcement in 2016, and 258 lives were lost last year. 394 Alton Sterlings, Philando Castiles, Michael Browns, Trayvon Martins, Eric Garners. 394 (mostly) men (but also women and children) who are no longer here to parent their sons and daughters. The families and children of 394 people who will develop a distinct distaste in their mouths for law enforcement. And so the problem (which, of course, has always been a problem) continues to fester – like a bad infection.

Enough of the hashtag justice. Let’s stop acting like keyboard warriors. Let’s take a step back from behind our privileged places in society and affect change. How do we ever expect our babies to carry the torch when we’re gone? I’ve got news for us all: the internet does not solve the issue of systemic racism. Or gun control. Or poverty. Or the NRA. Or misplaced God complexes.

What’s even worse is, after last night’s events in Dallas, our peaceful protests are no longer peaceful. We’re being relegated to our homes, when we need to be on the streets affecting social change. We need to be addressing these issues at a societal level. From the grass roots up. Away from our keyboards and – instead – in our conversations with our children, our participation in rallies and peaceful protests, and our incessant calls for action on poverty and the shocking availability of guns. For sensitivity training and better psychological assessments of our officers. For better treatment of PTSD. For better resources to address systemic racism and its effects. The issue is HUGE. And, while its resolution can start at home – it can’t be from behind our computers.

So, let’s all commit to stepping back from the keyboard. To lift up a pen. To teach a lesson of love to our children. To teach them that everyone is of equal value. To teach them to love and respect every one, no matter what colour their skin is. Parents of white children: let’s face up to the fact that we have to worry less about our children’s interactions with police. How does that make you feel? Whether we think it exists or not, white privilege is real and it’s working in our favour. Let that sickening piece of information sink in a little. We may not be racist, but the system is rigged in our favour. What if the tables were turned? Would you use hashtag justice to solve that problem?

We’re all in agreement: there’s a serious issue, and it demands our attention. We’re past that point, now. Let’s all raise our children up to know the meaning of peaceful, educated action rooted in empathy and love. Let’s teach the next generation to rise above simply acknowledging there’s a problem and instead take action rooted in systemic equality and love for all.

These topics may be difficult to broach with your children, but it’s absolutely essential that we teach them the meaning of equality. Not just its definition – but its implementation, learned through our behaviours.

It all starts when we take a step back from our keyboards.

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