Civil Rights Activist DeRay Mckesson ’07 Urges College students to Search Options

“I spend a lot of time in state legislatures,” he said. “You’d be shocked at how important one, five, ten people really are. One of the unfortunate things about the internet is that it has convinced people that you don’t matter if you don’t have 10,000 followers or 5,000 retweets.”

A small group that sends self-written emails to their state and local officials can go a long way. “You have a lot more power than you think,” he said.

Armed with data

Since the mobilization after Michael Brown’s death, the Black Lives Matter movement has armed itself with a huge amount of data. “The movement has changed in a lot of ways,” said Mckesson. “There were a lot of things in 2014 and 2015 that we just didn’t know. Now we know. We know a lot more about what’s going on than before.”

This research offers a clearer look at what is happening across the country. Contrary to popular belief, the police are no longer killing people in communities with higher levels of violence. “There are places with a lot of violence in the community and not a lot of police violence and vice versa,” Mckesson said. “These are things we didn’t know before.”

And the data shows that blacks are more likely to be unarmed and not threaten anyone if killed. “The differences are real around the race,” he said.

“The solution space is wide open”

Urged students to be social justice innovators, Mckesson said he found that many activists focus on explaining what doesn’t work rather than finding answers. “There is a lot of energy going into talking about the problem. What I realize now that I didn’t do it in 2013 is that there is a very small part that is focused on solutions,” he said. “We spend almost all of our work in this room.”

“We need more people who are ready to envision the future we deserve. The solution work has not yet been done. Most of the problems you are interested in, if you want to help figure out the solution space, are wide open. They are wide open.” – DeRay Mckesson

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