Last night Teach for America’s New York Alumni Affairs team launched a panel series called “What if We.” They kicked off the series by focusing on the school-to-prison pipeline. While clearly the crowd was self-selectedly interested in this issue, I was impressed to see by a show of hands that at least 50% of the room had read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Just reading her book and passing it along can go far in helping to make our mass incarceration epidemic a national discussion, and then a national priority.
An audience member asked a “what can we do” question with regards to making this issue important to people who “just don’t really care about the people it’s affecting.” One of my responses as a panelist was to point out that this supposed majority, comprised of folks who don’t feel like this affects them, is a shrinking demographic in this country. As I outlined in an earlier post (how the school-to-prison pipeline affects you) demographic trends dictate that more Americans will be some shade of brown, than white, within the next 30 years, and people of color are disproportionately suspended in school, incarcerated and disenfranchised.
But on a more philosophical level, this question of how we get other people to care about something we care about is as old as the concepts of society and culture themselves. It’s one that marketing/advertising folks think about more than politicians or nonprofit executives. American consumer capitalism is so uniquely powerful that it has positioned us culturally to look towards business for the best solutions for everything, including how to influence – and manipulate – what we think is important.
What moves us to really care about an issue that is not (seemingly) directly impacting us personally? empathy, guilt, anger, horror, fear, inspiration, passion, ambition….
What made YOU care about the issue - outside of your own personal life - you’re most moved by? A video, film, book, article, advertisement, event, pressure from a friend or family member….?
We need to employ all of those to put a stop to the school-to-prison pipeline and mass incarceration in the US. And those of us working directly on solving this huge universal problem from a nonprofit or government standpoint, need the help of folks who work in other industries, particularly creative ones, to make real change.
If you are, or know, a videographer, graphic designer or web designer, and are moved by any or several of the above emotions to help end this epidemic, contact us. Together, we can grow a movement.