A Better Way: 50+ Action Items to Fight Against Racism In Your Community (Part 1)

Posted on October 12, 2020

Black Lives Matter Protest

Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

We’ve been fighting the battle against racism for far too long. We need an action plan to transform our communities. Start here.

*NOTE: The following list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather a running list that I will update as I research new matters and face new challenges on this road called life. I have hopefully made each point short enough that people will take the time to read the entire list and fight for the issues that fit the needs of their particular community. The power is yours.**

This is a five-part series. Read the rest of the articles in the series: Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5.

A lot of people are hurting after the murder of George Floyd and I understand. I am upset. There’s something about seeing a person’s life slowly being taken away from them that breaks something inside of anyone that has a heart. So, what do we do with the outrage? What do we do with the anger and hurt? And more importantly, do we do with the anger and hurt of our young people? I discovered this video of the George Floyd protest online:

In the above video, a passionate 31-year-old gentleman, beside an angry 45-year-old gentleman, is telling the 16-year old that ten years from now he will still be protesting over the same issues and that he must “come up with a better way” to address the issues that plague their community. That is an error. It is our job and our duty as the older generation and as a society to show young people the way. If we do not know the way, how can we expect teenagers to find the way? This video and the hundreds of social media posts and articles after George Floyd’s death have made me realize that most of us have no plan because we do not understand the system in which we live and operate.

The United States is a country of law and economics. If we are not working to make the laws fairer or implementing programs and practices to improve the socio-economic conditions of communities that have been historically discriminated against and marginalized, then we are not really doing anything. All other gestures are diversions from the real issues and do not lead to community improvement. The danger in these diversions is that our youths are running out of patience. They were patient when Trayvon died and George Zimmerman went free. Nationally, though not in Ferguson, they were patient when Mike Brown was killed. They were patient in 2015 when Walter Scott was killed and Dylann Roof murdered 9 persons at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina but instead of sincerely addressing racism and having a national dialogue on race, we were given the false hope that taking down the confederate flag would solve all of our problems. They were most mostly peaceful in the hot summer of 2016 when Philando Castile and others died. I could go on and on.

This may be our last chance to reach our young people because what is presently happening in our streets and communities is youth-led protest. They are struggling to listen to the “leaders” because they do not see the America that we sold them. If we do not do something substantive and substantial post COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd, then I fear that the next time there will be no negotiations and no discussions. Outrage with no direction leads to destruction. We must harness the rage and anger of our young people and channel it towards the sweeping transformation of our communities’ laws and economics. If we want this system that we live within to remain intact then we must make fundamental changes in order to make our society fair and just for everyone. Racism will never disappear on its own. Our only option is to be proactive with laws, policies, and practices to finally eradicate it at its coreWhen you fail to do the practical you turn people into radicals.

Human beings are emotional creatures and when the underlying emotional needs aren’t meet (especially the needs of safety, justice, and opportunity) people lash out. The most effective profession is any profession or professional that is involved in mass political, legal, and economic change. If you change the political, legal, and economic nature of this society and of this world, we save our children by the hundreds of thousands and not one-on-one with direct services that only treat their external symptoms but leave them out in this world alone to be destroyed by systemic racism. We must change the structure of the system that we live in if we truly want to ensure that what happened to George Floyd and countless others does not happen to anyone else.

In terms of effecting true change, marches and street protests are so 1960s. During that time period, persons of African descent marching through the streets calling out injustice was revolutionary. Now it is just part of the noise of the city. According to a co-founder of the Occupy Movement, “[w]e have become obsessed with the spectacle of street protests, and we have started to ignore the reality that we are getting no closer to power.” We keep marching and nothing keeps changing. What are we marching towards? Things seems to be getting worse because collectively we have not gotten better as a society.

Barack Obama said this is our moment to effect true change. For those who desire to improve their communities, below are realistic policy, practice, and program ideas that I believe communities can implement at the local level (city, county, or school district) to create a better way. A better way for our young people and for ourselves. Most of these ideas are not novel concepts as some have been implemented in various places around the country. Read through the list, organize with others who share a common purpose in addressing systemic racism/white supremacy, pick an idea below that you believe is important to your community, go for the easy low-hanging fruit first, succeed, and keep moving forward. You may like every idea, or you may only like one but please get moving on something. You have only the rights you fight for and we do not have much time left to get it right.

This week, stay tuned for 50+ actions you can take to fight against racism in your community.

This article was written by Joshua V. Barr, Director, Des Moines Civil & Human Rights Commission. Connect with Joshua on Twitter or Email

Close window