This Is Why We Can’t Move Forward

Eight years ago I was working for a small nonprofit organization in Evanston. The work was rewarding and equally stressful, which made is easy to air my frustrations from time to time.  So one day, my supervisor/mentor and I were talking about programming and I was complaining about everything that was wrong with the organization, staff, etc. After my rant, this tiny, middle-aged white woman took a deep, exhausting breath, looked me in the eyes and said, ”Okay…so what solutions do you have?” Dumbstruck, I uttered a sad and soft, “I don’t know…”.  And that changed the way I looked at things from that point forward.

During this election season, I’ve seen so many people on social media posting anti-establishment, anti-vote, anti-democratic statuses in hopes of drawing a curious crowd to their soapbox. Even more disappointing was the fact that most of these people were Black.  Never mind the argument of how our ancestors fought and died for us to have these rights because that seems to fall on deaf ears these days. Instead, let’s talk about the issue of complaint and complacency.

All year long we complain about who’s on the ballot, who’s not representing us correctly, who’s oppressing us, what our communities are missing and how we still haven’t gotten our forty acres and a mule.  We are outraged when another Black life is brutally taken by police.  We weep and yell injustice when we are institutionalized for petty offenses. And when elections roll around, we don’t want to vote because the crooked system has seemingly already chosen our representatives. But when things are quiet and calm, we retreat to our routine lives. Complaint and complacency. So, if we don’t want/care to vote, allow the same politicians and lawmakers to make decisions and mostly respond to brutality and injustice with marches and temporary protests, how can we expect anything to change???

So, about these solutions…first we need to identify, support and collaborate with those leaders who are already in office and are working their asses off to equalize the system. As a result of how we’ve been treated by the government, we have a tendency to look at all politicians as enemies when, in fact, there are those who do care and work diligently to alleviate some of the pressures faced by minorities. We need to cut them a little slack and trust that they’re working in our best interests.

Secondly, we need to start grooming local leaders who we believe will represent us with integrity, tenacity and righteousness. In Illinois, we have the problem of multi-term politicians, which means that as long as they’re in office, their policies and practices stay with them. In our very own neighborhoods, there are highly intelligent and motivated young people with leadership potential and the capability to function as aldermen, state reps, senators and governors.  We need to use our networks, education and power to train, endorse and get people in office who understand and will advocate for the needs of our communities.

Third, WE HAVE TO STRATEGIZE, ORGANIZE AND ADVOCATE!  I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again—marching and protesting are not long-term solutions nor can our leaders effect change by themselves. If we know that student achievement is low in certain communities because of underfunding, then we need to bring that issue to our representatives and stand behind them when requesting that the funding formula be changed. If we know that a particular judge has a track record of unfair convictions, we need to jump-start a campaign that keeps that judge off of the bench. And if we see constant police brutality, we need to collectively advocate for nationwide police reform. Bottom line, we will never win if we’re always looking to someone else to fight our battles—organizing and advocacy are musts in seeking the change we need.

No one can argue that Black people have been granted the full freedom and equality promised by the Constitution.  No one can argue against the fact that the blatant prejudice and racism that our ancestors suffered during the Antebellum, Civil War and Jim Crow Eras exists in 2016.  And it’s completely understandable that most of us are fed up and think that there’s no point in participating in a system that works so hard to keep us down.  But just because these ugly truths persist, we cannot allow them to forever rule our existence.  Complaining with no solutions translates to complacency and in these turbulent times, we can’t afford either. We have to break the chains, take our power and run with it!

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Tanesha Peeples

South Side community leader Tanesha Peeples is a Chicago Public Schools alumna and proud Englewoodian. She currently serves on the board of the Montessori School of Englewood. Formerly, she served the Deputy Director of Outreach for Education Post, for whom she penned the long-running column Hope and Outrage. As an undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University, Tanesha began to develop a passion for and understand the importance of public service. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration, she returned to Chicago with a new perspective on community, politics and civic engagement. Tanesha then attended and graduated from DePaul University with a master’s degree in public service management and urban planning and development. Throughout her professional career, Tanesha has used her education, passion and experience to navigate a number of nonprofit, political and independent ventures, advancing her mission to educate and empower marginalized populations. Prior to joining Education Post, she also managed her own consulting firm specializing in community relations. Tanesha’s vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or zip code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. Find her on Twitter at @PeeplesChoice85.