A Call to Action, Not Soul Searching

Sam Hales
04 June 2020

I am by nature a thinker and a dialoguer. I like talking to people and I like debate. I like hearing different perspectives and I like those who challenge mine. Those challenges make me think more deeply. I learn through dialogue. Additionally, I believe we should all regularly search our souls and constantly seek self-improvement. As humans, we either spiritually and intellectually grow or we just wait to die.  So, keep this in mind when you read this advice I am about to give. Now is not the time for national, state or individual dialogue and soul searching over the death of George Floyd and systemic racism in the United States. Tensions are too higher. Our echo chambers are too closed. The stories we are telling ourselves about our nation and our lives are too different.  And, most importantly, our societal trust is too low. The communities in our country are dangerously close to tripping the flight or fight mechanism. Deep meaningful dialogue without trust and a sense of calm can lead to terrible, terrible outcomes if allowed to spin out of control. With this said, it is time to act. As a nation, we must act. As states, we must act. And as individuals in our communities we must act. The action we need to take at all levels is to reach out and make the lives of our fellow Americans who are hurting better. Find someone or some community in pain and help. We won’t take their pain away overnight, but if every day or week we do a little more by the end of a year and two years and five we will have massive change across the nation. So, what kind of action am I talking about?

 I believe we should have action at three different levels as I stated above. The national level is the slowest resolving of the actions, but can have the widest and longest effect. Before I list out my ideas for actions, please keep in mind this list is a starting point. These actions we must refine and expand, but this will get us talking and acting. We need a 9/11 style commission on police abuse, equality before the law and poverty. I see these three areas all massively contributing to the rightful rage we are seeing in the protests today coming out of the Black community. This commission should focus on the poorest parts of our country and see how we can reduce police abuse, improve equality before the law and reduce poverty.

This commission must be made up of people who love the nation, love these communities, are trusted by these communities and are experienced with solving challenging organizational problems and other skills related to this issue. The selection of who is on this commission is critical and must be done in a non-partisan manner. As a commission, they must represent the left and the right of American politics, but they fundamentally cannot come to this commission for their own political advancement. Nation first.

The commission has six months to study the problem and then report back to the country in a State of the Union setting and before the entire Congress and President. This must be a bi-partisan national effort. Maybe we can find the maturity to even include our past Presidents in this event. We must make this a national effort. When the commission has submitted its findings and clear recommendations the Congress must act. They must set their petty politics to the side and create the American Justice Bill that addresses how at the national level we are going to reduce police abuse, improve equality before the law and reduce poverty. The President will sign the bill within two months of the commission’s finding. For the next five years the commission will track and report back to us, the American people, and the government on how we are doing. They will use clear metrics and they will give recommendations on how we refine the plan to continuously improve about ability to achieve these three objectives.

The state levels are somewhat similar, but due to the great diversity of circumstances in the different states they will have different approaches. But, the states will also focus on reducing police abuse, equality before the law and reducing poverty in the most impoverished areas. At this point, I think it is important to talk about what I mean by “most impoverished”. Poverty alone is not a measure. Lack of economic mobility is another key factor to focus on. Indicators of lack of future economic growth like poor high school graduation rates and other factors. Once the states identify these areas, they must enact pro-business policies to attract economic growth in these poor areas. They must support investment in these areas while addressing the challenges of “gentrification” as their policies bare fruit and we see economic growth in these areas. There are so many wonderful ways that states can address these issues and they will have to find a way that fits their unique politics and circumstances. Here is where I offer a word of caution. We cannot simply through more money after bad policies and programs of the past. We cannot simply reinforce bad organizations of the past. The ability to fire bad cops cannot be limited due to police union interests. The ability to reform local schools in these areas cannot be restricted by powerful teachers’ unions. States must take a fresh look at solving these problems and get after it. Quantifiable action with clear and measurable objectives!

Lastly, and in many ways most importantly, at the individual level we all need to reach out across our communities and help those who are suffering and struggling. This does not have to be huge endeavors. Build trust. Prove through action that you care. Make every person in our community and greater communities know that they are loved. Yup, loved. If you are good at math go offer to tutor kids in a disadvantaged school. If you are good at reading and writing, go to a church in a disadvantaged community and offer your services. If you coach soccer, go to a disadvantaged neighborhood that needs coaches and coach a team there. Do something for someone new who is in need. Then there is one more thing. Don’t just look to the disadvantaged neighborhoods. Look to your own. Go out and meet your neighbors. Find out which neighbor is mobility challenged and ask them if they need help getting their garbage out for pick up. If a neighbor needs help mowing their lawn mow their law. Through action show that you care. Built relationship of trust and respect across our communities through action.

America is at a critical point in our history. More than anything at all levels we need to reach out and help our fellow Americans. We need to help those who are hurting and prove through action that we care. Now is not the time to collectively soul search or deep dialogues trying to convince others that their story is wrong. Now is the time to love and act. Deeds, not words will bring us together. We do not need to all share the same story on the impact of racism on America today. What we need is to prove to each other that we share the same goals of healthy local policing for all, equality before the law for all and that every American regardless of background can advance in America through hard work and good decision making. We can all agree on that. Everything else is minor. America, we got this! Together we can do anything.