I am the proud mother of two African American teenage boys who are around the same age that Trayvon Martin was when he was killed. Every day I wake up and ask myself, “What can I contribute to make the world a better place for them and the other children of the world?” Five years ago I joined a volunteer fire department and became an EMT, I have taught Sunday School at church, and recently went back to college to finish my degree, all while working a retail job in Northern Virginia. My thought has always been that if I am not setting an example for my children, someone else will and it may not be the one I want.
This article is inspired by of one of my recent Facebook statuses and the responses it received. It read,
“…if we (the people) do not like what is going on within the system why not do something about it? What youth are you speaking to about positive choices? Have you gone back to school for a law degree? Are you taking the police exam? Have you used your power & influence to help someone other than yourself? Mike said it best, take a look at the man in the mirror.”
My Facebook post was the result of growing frustration with my friends’ statuses about how white police officers were able to kill Mike Brown and Eric Garner and get away with it.
I get it. We are all outraged about what is going on in America right now. But we are living in 2014, not the 1950s when protests, sit-ins and boycotts were the most effective means of resistance. Our grandparents and great-grandparents did that so we would not have to. It’s now our responsibility to take it to the next level.
Do the voices of Congress represent your thoughts and beliefs? Did you vote this election season? There are 535 members of Congress, 104 of which are women. And as of today, four out of five members are white. Voting makes a difference, and that means more than just voting in the presidential election. Congress represents your voice. Have you written to your state’s representative before, or do you sit around and wait for someone to do it? We can’t complain about the way America is run if we aren’t active members of society.
According to the American Bar Association’s 2012 Demographics Report, there are a 1,268,011 lawyers in America. Of that of that number, only 4.8% are black and 3.7% Hispanic. Are you ready to enroll in the next semester of college? Are you prepared to take LSAT?
In 2013 the FBI reported that every 27.1 seconds a violent crime happens and a murder occurred every 37 minutes. There are many police departments across the United States that are currently looking for new members to join the ranks. And in some, the minimum requirement is a high school diploma. Yet many complain about the unemployment rate, being stereotyped and how the police are not helpful or do not do anything when you call them. You should not air your grievances about the job the police are doing if you yourself are not willing to take the test and show up at the academy to become an officer of the law.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go. And when he is old he will not depart from it.” I believe that every parent, aunt, uncle, or anybody who spends time with children should take this verse to heart. There are so many misguided youth, especially in our inner cities. You see them! Some are standing on corners, or they are hanging out in the food courts of the malls you frequent. Are you speaking positivity into their lives? How can you invest in them to make our community better?
The first question that was posed at the beginning of the Facebook status was, “If we do not like what is going on within the system, why not do something about it?” Some of us wait until something tragic happens before we react. Some of us believe that unless it affects our lives directly it is not our problem. Some of us don’t consider it a problem.
The change that we are looking for does not occur solely through rioting or wearing a t-shirt with a slogan on it.
Change comes when you do the work! Change comes when you when you join neighborhood committees. Change begins with teaching our children at an early age right from wrong and knowing their self-value. Change begins when you see that teenager standing on the corner and you sow a seed, whether it is knowledge or sharing the love of God. Change begins when you decide to go back to school for a law degree, a teaching degree or decide to become a police officer. Change happens you go out, register to vote and actually vote. Change begins with you.
-LaKeta Coates is the mother of two sons and is currently studying criminal justice in hopes of making her community a better place.