The past two weeks have been filled with American outrage—and rightly so.
The killing of an innocent person at the hands of the police is the very definition of tyranny, and Phone2Action stands with the Black community in seeking to improve a system that all too often fails.
Right now, the place for that outrage is peaceful protest. As a company dedicated to advocacy and action, we support those who participate in the democratic process by exercising their First Amendment rights to petition the government, assemble peacefully and make their voices heard.
Equality, safety and human rights are not partisan issues—in fact, they shouldn’t be issues at all. These are the very foundations of our society. There are not two sides to be argued. There is only right and wrong. As Americans, we must do what is right and uphold the ideals that should define the world’s greatest democracy.
To do that in earnest will require a shift. The energy and passion we see every day at the protests must be channeled into the election if we are to end senseless killings and halt forever the culture of fear forced upon people of color every day in the United States. Very soon, the right place for American outrage will be on a ballot.
The ‘New Citizen’
As a country, we have seen protests turn to electoral action in the past. On Jan. 21 of 2017, the Women’s March inspired millions to gather in cities across America and around the globe, wearing pink hats and demanding respect and equality. Roughly half a million marched in Washington DC alone. But the movement did not end that day—in fact, one could argue that it began.
The following year, a record number of women entered races for the U.S. House and Senate, governorships, state legislatures and other offices. On Election Day, Americans sent more women to Congress than ever before, including the first Muslim women, the first Native American women and many other firsts. It happened in the states, too. South Dakota elected its first female governor. Women now outnumber men in the Nevada Legislature, a first for any state in U.S. history. There is still work to be done if women are to be represented equally in government. But channeling American outrage into elections yielded tangible results.
That is important, because that outrage is not going away. Dr. Ximena Hartsock, the co-founder of Phone2Action, made a study of protests worldwide last year after her native Chile was struck by protests and social unrest. Looking at 16 countries around the world—including the United States—she was introduced to a new type of digital activist.
“I believe these protests reflect the emergence of the New Citizen, a new type of political actor,” she wrote. “These individuals are leaderless and self-directed. They are upset and angry. They are not attached to a political party, organized movement, or advocacy organization. They feel that the political establishment doesn’t represent their interests or actively undermines them. Their action is connective rather than collective.”
In America, the New Citizen is active. Fueled by outrage at an unequal system, and powered by digital tools that can turn any protester into their own command center, they have pulled American attention away from a global pandemic and focused it on human rights.
Marching to the Polls
How organizations address elements of their audience who are outraged, passionate and burning to take action will be vital to communication efforts in the next 150 days as America speeds toward the Nov. 3 election.
Transforming the energy of the protests into electoral action is something that every organization—companies, associations and nonprofits—can and should facilitate, and it need not be partisan. Here are some ideas that may help:
- Phone2Action stands for diversity and equality. We encourage our colleagues to take action through partners such as The National Urban League, Community Change Action and Black Futures Lab.
- Phone2Action’s #TogetherWeRise initiative allows anyone to communicate their feelings to elected officials and support reform initiatives. Any organization can use the campaign. Just share the link with your audience.
- The pandemic is changing voting rules dramatically. Social distancing rules are making in-person voting more difficult and placing a major emphasis on voting by mail. The result: your audience will need solid information on how to vote. Many organizations are turning to Civic Action Centers that allow their audience to check registration status, register, obtain information and take care of all their election-related needs. Initiatives such as National Voter Registration Day and can also be a powerful way to get your audience involved in the election. Phone2Action sponsors and powers MTV’s Vote Early Day initiative, where anyone can access the Civic Action Center to find out election information
- Communications within your organization can be as important as external messaging when it comes to writing about the protests and the election. For insights on how to handle internal communications, take a look at the post by Shelli Holland, Phone2Action’s vice president for human resources.
Many organizations are communicating actively and taking positions on the protests. Companies like Amazon, Netflix and Citigroup expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Nike released a video saying, “For once, Don’t Do It. Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America … don’t sit back and be silent.” Ben & Jerry’s, which has a long history of activism, released a powerful statement calling on Americans to “dismantle white supremacy.”
“We must embark on the more complicated work of delivering justice for all the victims of state sponsored violence and racism,” the statement said.
While the company did not expressly say so, much of that work will be powered by the election, just as the Women’s March invigorated the 2018 election and gave rise to record numbers of women in Congress and other offices, all of whom are now in a position to make real change.
As Ben & Jerry’s put it, “The world is watching America’s response.”
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