Oh, the title? I’m just trying to be self-aware. That’s kind of new. Everything in this post is new for me.
Ok, I said in my short post the other day that I was planning something for Monday. It’s Wednesday now and I only just posted it. What did I post, you may well be asking.
This is what I posted:
It’s my humble attempt to create change. I had the idea, and so felt obligated to give it a shot, despite my cowardice and crippling fear of my own incompetence. I kind of wish someone else had had this idea instead, someone more knowledgeable, someone with a devoted social media following. If I had to pick someone to start a such campaign in the hopes that it will go viral, I would not have chosen myself.
But I had the idea, and it seemed good at the time. Now that I’ve acted on it, of course, it seems ridiculous. But someone has already made the call! Actually, he did something way cooler than read the script I compiled. He got specific, which (I assume) is way more effective. He did not, however copy and paste the instructions I designed in the hopes of creating virality. I think around three of his friends have already commented that they will call too, but there is no way for me to know if they do, or if it goes any further than them.
Here’s what a friend of his wrote when she reposted his video:
Katrina Huber-Juma is organizing people to call their Congressional, state and local representatives in support of Campaign Zero’s platforms, and take video of themselves doing so. [Redacted] made this video of his call to his Assemblyman’s office and talks about dealing with phone anxiety during the process.
The bill he’s talking about is a state bill. You can find information about legislative issues in front of your own representatives right now by entering your zip code at http://www.joincampaignzero.org/
Having worked in a legislative office, these calls are a lot more impactful than you might think. Offices carefully track how many constituents call in in support of vs. against a particular piece of legislation. Even if a policymaker’s mind is firmly made up, enough calls can sometimes prompt them to focus more energy on an issue, or to tone down their engagement with that issue.
If you can’t make a phone call, that is totally fine! Emails and snail mail are tracked in this way as well and also make a difference.
Here’s how the idea grew.
I was horrified by the recent killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, but wasn’t sure how to express myself. A status update from me didn’t seem useful, so I wrote nothing. I felt I had nothing unique to say. My friends already know that racism and police brutality is wrong, saying as much to them… just didn’t seem useful. I’m not a great thinker or a powerful writer, I don’t have a special perspective that needs to be heard.
Then I saw on someone’s page a recommendation that people call their police chief or something. And I wanted to do it. But what would I say? I didn’t have any solutions.
Somehow, I got to thinking that maybe more people would call if they knew exactly who to call and what to say. I realized I’d already made my mind up to call, so I’d need to figure that out for myself anyway, so why not share that information?
I don’t remember how I made this leap, exactly, but suddenly I was thinking about the wildly viral Ice Bucket Challenge, and it seemed like maybe that would be the way to do it.
I started talking over my idea with friends, both to strengthen the idea, and to add more pressure to myself to actually follow through. One friend provided a link to a site called Campaign Zero, and that had all the information I needed, all neatly laid out.
So the plan became to try and start something. I would film myself making a call to my representative, and I would read a script (I basically heavily summarized the points from Campaign Zero to make the script, and had others look at it). Then I would nominate others to either make the call or donate to Black Lives Matter. They would then nominate others, and so on and, hopefully, so on and so on.
The friends I talked it over with were excited, proud.
Why film a phone call? Because I want to appeal to people who want to be seen to be doing good. I think there are people who will be more likely to make the call if they can get positive feedback for it on their social media (being 100% honest, that might also be me, I’m still trying to sort out my motives in my own mind). Also, I wanted to show that it’s not really hard to call and doesn’t take long, and that you don’t even have to be good on the phone (I’m certainly not).
It took me a while to decide whether or not to include in the text of the post some advice to the effect of “don’t tag your traumatized Black/POC friends,”and I’m still not quite comfortable with my decision to leave that off. I mean, I trust my friends’ judgement, but if it gets further away from me than that, someone might make a bad call. But I didn’t want to discourage anyone.
I asked people before I publicly challenged them to make the call. Some people didn’t respond, although I know they saw the messages. I was shocked and saddened by how many people said “no” or “that’s not really my thing.”
Honestly, each new “no” made me feel personally hurt and, yes, changed my opinion of the person saying it (despite the promise I made to myself not to hold it against anyone). A phone call seems like a remarkably small thing to ask. I wanted to beg “Please, my children will be Black. My whiteness won’t protect them once they leave my arms!”
I had to remind myself that I have it easy. As much as these declinations hurt me, I tried to imagine how much more they would hurt if I were Black. I would be like being told, to my face, that my lives like mine aren’t worth a 3 minute phone call.
My husband doesn’t believe that there will ever be positive change in this area. For a few days, I truly believed that what I was doing could make a difference. Now that this project is pretty much out of my hands, my belief has abandoned me. But I’m glad it lasted me long enough to try.
I wouldn’t say I’m an activist, or that I feel I’ve done enough or all I can do. I’ve just dipped my tiny toe into trying to do something about something. And the call was easy to make. If you claim to care, make a call, make your voice heard.
If you, dear reader, want to try and start this, I would be grateful. Present it as your own idea, if you think that would make it more compelling to your friends.
The script is the cover picture here.
If you want to see everything on facebook tagged with #callingForReform, go here.
Here’s my call