June 2020 Talking Points

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This is a particularly important time to make sure we are communicating about current events, and the history that has brought us here, in a way that actively contributes to dismantling white supremacy.  The following guidance is intended to help Sister District volunteer leaders navigate email, social media, and other communications in a way that is additive, conscientious, and continues our important work on behalf of state legislative candidates.

Where do I start?

  • To our Black leaders:
    • We are outraged. We stand with you. If there is anything we can do to help, please let us know.
  • To our non-Black leaders:
    • Educate yourself on how to be anti-racist. This is not a destination, but a lifelong journey. A few resources to get you started.
    • Even if you are well-intentioned, your actions or words can land in a harmful way. It is important to take responsibility for this harm where it occurs.
      • It is not the duty of your Black friends or colleagues to educate or comfort you in this moment. Do not ask them to speak to your members about these issues right now, especially not for free.
      • Be particularly kind to Black community members right now. Be flexible with deadlines and expectations. Business is not as usual.
      • Center and elevate Black voices. More on how to do this below.

What language should I use?

  1. Copy any language from Sister District official statements:
    1. Our Commitment to Dismantling Structural Racism
    2. Our Statement on the Fight for Justice for Black People in America
  1. Share statements directly from our candidates. Many of our alumni and 2020 candidates have already shared their statements and thoughts, and highlighting their voices as leaders and future leaders is important. Look for language on their websites, social media accounts, press coverage, and in their email communications. Here are a few:
    1. Josh Cole
    2. Jonathan Kassa
    3. Frances Jackson
    4. Coral Evans
  2. Share the work that is being done at the state level to combat police violence. A few examples are in our statement post above, and there will be more to come.
    1. Elizabeth Guzman
  3. Center Black voices and follow their lead.
    1. Share statements and resources from Black-led organizations, without editorializing or adding commentary.
      1. I know voting feels inadequate right now” by Stacey Abrams
    2. Don’t talk about how you are feeling. Instead, focus on the fact that we are all outraged, we stand in solidarity, and we will commit to taking long-term action.

Should we continue fundraising for our 2020 candidates right now?

Yes! State legislatures are vitally important to making progress in combating police violence and dismantling structural racism. However, we encourage you to make your donation asks in a conscientious, muted tone.

Sample posts:

Right now, state legislatures matter more than ever. Please consider a donation to [Candidate Name] – this is an important moment to elect state and local candidates who will fight for meaningful reform.

States that enact strict use-of-force policies, reject using military equipment, push for fair police contracts, and establish meaningful community oversight have fewer incidents of police violence. That is why now, more than ever, we must elect state legislators who can have a concrete impact on dismantling structural racism. Please consider donating to [Candidate Name].

We support those who are out in the streets protesting right now. And if you are looking for additional actions that you can take from home, we suggest donating to [Candidate Name]. Police and criminal justice reform happens at the state and local levels– now more than ever, we must elect state legislators who can have a concrete impact on dismantling structural racism.

How do we promote events and activities?

First and foremost, remember that this is an immensely emotional time for everyone, but especially for Black people. Taking a flippant, lighthearted tone may feel inconsiderate and insensitive to someone who is experiencing trauma.

This doesn’t mean you can’t promote your scheduled events and activities, but it’s important to do it in a conscientious way. We recommend simply naming the fact that this is a difficult time to ask for attention to be pulled away from police violence, but that our work is continuing and if people have the time and space to engage, they are welcome. For example, you could begin your emails with something like the following:

First, we want to take time to honor the protests and pain throughout the country. As an organization, Sister District is unequivocally committed to ending structural racism and violence against Black people. Voting and elections are just one tool in the arsenal to bring change, and we are proud to support candidates who will work in the streets and the state houses to enact meaningful reform and end institutionalized oppression. Sister District’s full statement can be found here.

We know there is a dissonance in pivoting to invite you to our upcoming events right now. We are doing it because we know that the elections this November are incredibly important, and we cannot move forward as a nation without leadership that shows up, stands up, and speaks out. The legislators we elect will have the power to enact meaningful reform that can save Black lives and help to dismantle structural racism. But if you feel that your civic attention needs to be elsewhere right now, we understand, and we encourage you to re-engage with Sister District when you feel able.

(Thank you to the Greater Chicago team for the first version of the above language.)

Or, you may also want to consider delaying promoting your events (especially the “fun/quirky” ones) for a few days or a week.

What hashtags should I use?

In general, do not use the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on any post that is not directly relevant to a BLM action or official information. This hashtag is used by BLM organizers and advocates to spread information, share critical updates, and organize protests – using it indiscriminately can clog up channels and make it more difficult for organizers to get their message out. On posts related to Sister District work we recommend using #itstartswithstates and #whystatesmatter

Beware of fake news and disinformation!

This is especially critical right now. We know there are state actors, hackers, white supremacist groups, and trolls actively working to undermine our movement, and they have become extremely subtle and savvy. Do not share memes or information that you cannot find a credible citation for, even if it seems benign or informative to you. If you have any questions, we’re here to be a resource.

What information should I share about Black-led organizations and efforts?

Our work is particularly relevant in this moment because so much of the reform we need must be enacted by state legislators. But elections are just one of many paths to dismantling structural racism. If you wish to share additional information, we suggest pointing people to local organizations doing work in your community, or other places that compile resources, such as the resources we listed in the first section of the memo. If you wish to direct people to support organizations working to build Black electoral power, we created this link where you can do just that. (If you would like to track donations from your team in your Fundraising Portal, request an ActBlue link from us.)

I think I messed up and published something insensitive. What do I do?

Please reach out Lyzz, Lala, or Neal if you think you may have unintentionally posted or emailed something that doesn’t fit the tone of the moment. Everyone makes mistakes; how we respond afterwards makes a difference.  We’ve got your back.