Tweeting a hashtag or liking someone's Facebook post is one thing, but actually doing something is another. Following the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of police officers who claim to only want to protect and serve regardless of a person's race, class, or creed, the United States is once again faced with the daunting reality of a broken police system. That system, as made clear by the frequent killings of black Americans by police officers around the nation, is only perpetuated by many politicians and public figures' apparent refusal to directly address the problem: police.
"To admit we've got a serious problem in no way contradicts our respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day," President Barack Obama said in a statement Thursday. "It is to say that, as a nation, we can and must do better to institute the best practices that reduce the appearance or reality of racial bias in law enforcement."
So what can the average citizen do to ensure these "best practices" actually come to fruition?
Donate to victims of police brutality whenever possible.
For example, Awkward Black Girl creator Issa Rae started the #AltonSterlingFamily campaign on GoFundMe Wednesday and raised more than $300,000 in less than a day. "If you feel helpless, but want to play a small part in easing the burden of #AltonSterling's family, consider donating to this scholarship fund for his 15-year-old son (and his other kids)," Rae said. Every single dollar or cent helps, as evidenced by this campaign's widespread support.
You can also donate to Philando Castile's family here.
Unfortunately, some will try to take advantage of these situations by setting up seemingly legitimate fundraising efforts only to not follow through with the campaign's stated promises. An excellent way to check up on a fundraising effort's legitimacy is to follow the lead of activists like DeRay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie, who regularly tweet links to confirmed fundraising efforts.
Hold local politicians accountable for their stances on police reform.
Change often starts at the local level, meaning the small act of making yourself familiar with local leaders' stances on police reform measures can go a very long way. But don't just take their word for it. Contact your local mayor and governor's offices with a list of demands, then follow-up with their progress. Join a local organization aimed at holding such officials accountable, or start your own. Campaign Zero's new legislation and advocacy tool, launched Thursday, allows you to easily review local laws and hold your elected officials accountable for their actions, or lack thereof:
Hold local police departments accountable too.
Finding your city's police department contact information is as easy as a quick and painless Googling, meaning there's no excuse—much like with holding politicians accountable—for not letting police hear your concerns. Additionally, when these departments reach out to local communities for their opinions on impending new policies, speak out!
As for the recent deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of police, you can find the corresponding police departments' contact info below:
St. Anthony Police Department // Email // (612) 782-3350
Baton Rouge Police Department // Email // (225) 389-2000
Don't be silent.
If you don't fully understand the threat of police brutality due to your personal privilege or distance from such situations, educate yourself. Learn to recognize not only racism, but policies and institutions that allow such racism to flourish. The Guardian's Counted project, which has documented police killings in the U.S. for the past two years, regularly updates its database. When someone asks you why police brutality is perhaps our most pressing societal issue, simply point them here:
But ultimately articles like this won't change anything unless we replace words and posturing with action and accountability. Let's start today.