“I am raising awareness”…seems to be the rebel yell of the day. We change our profile pics on Facebook, write posts, troll political sites, share clips of news debates, etc. all in the cause of “raising awareness” for some cause or social issue. But what are we really doing? Nothing. Making noise, at best.
We are attempting to make someone else aware so that someone else will fix the problem. The issue with this is that no one is stepping up to fix any problems. Instead of us taking action, we are hoping that another person or group will. “It is not my job” we say. “The government should be fixing that.” “I am doing my part by raising awareness.” I get that we can’t champion every cause, but we don’t even champion a single one.
Instead, wouldn’t it be better to actually take a part in solving the problem? Most of the issues we are “raising awareness” for are all very well known and it is safe to say awareness has been achieved and we are just highlighting it further. In fact, most of the time, we are making the issue worse. The Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter posts just piss off the other side more when we could be seeking a solution. Rather, we are creating a deeper divide.
The latest example with Colin Kaepernick just drives this home even further. He is “raising awareness” for something he feels strongly about. What is he really doing tough? Honestly, what does he want us all to do? Should I sit down when the national anthem is playing? What if the whole country sat down in support of him, what did that achieve? It is the equivalent of seeking likes for a Facebook profile change to raise awareness. All the likes in world are not going to fix any problems, but they make us think and feel we are doing something for the cause.
In all reality, he is inflaming those who hate to see patriotism disrespected and angering those who want to defend his right to express his view. Not one conversation is happening about the actual problem. He effectively stole the awareness from the issue and created a new smokescreen. He has successfully reignited the flames and pushed people further away from a solution or even looking at the root cause.
The root cause he is trying to highlight is our prejudicial views. There are those who feel oppressed and those who think that is not true or they are blowing things out of proportion. “How can you say black people are oppressed when there is a black president?” “Our Attorney Generals since 2009 have been black, why aren’t they pursuing more justice for these shootings and police corruption.” Instead of questioning the reasoning, question what makes them feel this way. How can we work together to fix this? I am quite sure the vast majority of Americans are not prejudist and would love to have everyone feel as if they have an equal share of the pie. There are those who are white, Hispanic, gay, Muslim, female, etc. and feel they are not appreciated either. We will only get there by collaborating on a solution and then bringing “awareness” to that.
Instead of all this talking about problems that other people need to fix, I would love to see Kaepernick use his platform and resources to actually do something. Lead by example. When I want someone one my team to mentor their Airmen, I don’t refuse to salute officers to raise awareness. I don’t sit for the anthem or some other expression that equates to a toddler’s temper tantrum in hopes someone else will notice me. What I do is simply mentor Airmen. I don’t know what Colin’s ideal end game would look like or the steps to get there, but exercising the First Amendment in this way has not brought us one step closer to ending prejudice. In fact, from the comments and posts I have read, it is making it worse.
It only takes a small gesture in the right direction to get things moving. Then by reinforcing that behavior it will spread by a couple and eventually could start a movement that affects change. However, it takes more work than sharing a post on Facebook or buying a t-shirt. We need to have real conversations with others and have the intent to collaborate on a solution for the areas we can control.