12 ways to act on racial injustice in America

Phil Dillard is an entrepreneur, innovation consultant, and navy veteran who teaches skills like leadership and strategy to business executives. He's also a black man who grew up and lives in America. Phil shares some of his perspectives surrounding racism in America and suggests 12 different ways to help create justice and equity for all people.

We are living in tenuous times right now. We have not experienced a moment like this in the entire history of our country. Make no mistake, we are in a crisis of epic proportions. What we do now, every day, matters. The very fabric of the nation is at risk.

Before going further, I should qualify my comments. I'm not an activist or an expert in the topics discussed — at least not by traditional measures. I don't have a PhD in history (that's my sister), political science, or sociology. I studied science, engineering, and business. I teach negotiation, innovation, and entrepreneurship. That said, I’ve also become an expert at living in black skin over the decades, so my moderately-informed comments and opinions are a reflection of my unique lens into the world.

At a very young age I struggled to understand how a supposedly Christian nation could treat me and my entire family so poorly because of my skin color. As time went on, I explored the country — and eventually the world — looking for a place where I could be free to be myself and not "the black guy.” I had better experiences in some of the places that I visited than others. In some places, I felt completely free to just be me — others were downright dangerous. One thing was constant, the pervasiveness of racism in the systems at work. This was clearly a case of more than just bad actors or failings of the human condition.

I found that American racism had made its way into every corner of the world — through television, movies, music, and other Americans. To me, American racism is different because of the legacy of slavery and white supremacy that created an artificial concept of whiteness, going beyond simple “otherness.” In every part of the world, people find reasons to identify and antagonize the “other.” This conflict often involves one group — often based on skin color — that is perceived to be taking something from another group. Perhaps most disconcerting was the reinforcement of overblown stereotypes on American television. Shows like Jerry Springer, Rikki Lake, and Cops — some of the most popular programming of the day — narrowly portrayed black culture and failed to accurately reflect the breadth or depth of my community to an audience that had limited exposure to the truth.

Over time, I also came to learn how racism affected other groups of Americans. My experience with racism as a black man is deep and painful, coming from a unique and intense history. Other groups, however, also experience challenges and discrimination that to them seem no less real, persistent, or painful than my own. While my people have a very detailed list of grievances, I came to more deeply respect the pain and experiences of others, regardless of the color of their skin. That said, I could plainly see that while we all had problems, my house was on fire, so to speak. My people were dying in the streets, in their homes, and in hospitals at extremely disproportionate numbers. My black family members were targeted, beaten, and jailed far more than my white peers for the same activities. I feared that the worsening experience of black people was a canary in the coal mine for the decay of our society. I could feel us nearing a tipping point.

I continued studying the problem and experimenting to find effective ways to make changes within the system. I read, observed, talked with experts and civil rights icons, volunteered with nonprofits, mentored youth, and supported political candidates. I intentionally worked with people in different industries and across diverse communities to inform my point of view — so that I would be better prepared to contribute significantly in a pivotal moment. Now, the work I do every day is squarely focused on making a positive impact on my local community, the country, and the planet, while making a living.

It is from this perspective that I share 12 suggestions to start making a difference in America. Why? Because many people have reached out to me in recent days and weeks, seeking to understand what is going on in our country. I've discussed the current crisis with men and women of many races, ethnicities, nationalities, and age groups. They voiced their concerns, shared commitments of solidarity, cited their mistakes and fears, and asked questions about my experience with racism in America. While these conversations are needed and long overdue — and there are similar conversations happening across television and other forms of media — they are only the first baby step we need to take in response to this crisis.

  1. Read, study and listen - there is a lot of quality research, writing, courses, and content out there. Experts spend years uncovering the truth so we can learn from it. Follow these links for some great resources to inform your knowledge, increase your awareness, and sharpen your intuition.
  2. Subscribe to a social justice or race discussion podcast/blog - this is easy and a good replacement for that gossip blog you've been following. Let's make "building a just America" cool. There are so many great podcast and blog choices that are relevant. Here’s a few worth checking out: 1619 Project, The Breakdown, PodSaveAmerica, CodeSwitch.
  3. Join a group committed to equitable social change - Pick one and commit to supporting it for 2 years. Your time is your most valuable asset. Invest some of it in something bigger than yourself.
  4. Talk with a veteran - Veterans have seen when societies have fallen into chaos. They know how much worse it can get and are great allies for diversity, inclusion and equity. Let their experience help you develop some perspective.
  5. Integrate your church - I've attended and performed in churches all over the country. I can attest to the fact that the church is the most segregated place in America. This is a disgrace. Do something about it.
  6. Integrate your local schools and extracurriculars - People know now more than ever how much teachers do for kids and parents alike. A lack of resources for some kids also perpetuates the worst parts of our system. Do your part. Fund public schools. Engage in your community’s education. Take a hard look at the potential division caused by charter schools. Push for real reform in education and demand equity for your neighbors. As a side note, America needs to grow its collective genius simply to maintain its position on the global stage.
  7. Invest in your community - Cities are facing a monumental budget shortfall. They will need all the help they can get to rebuild after this crisis. For example, cities will need entrepreneurs to (re)build new businesses, so they can restore their revenue from taxes and offer services that are already being cut as a result of the pandemic. Cities will also benefit from implementing digital transformation and smart-city/government projects which will help them deliver services more efficiently, so they can do more with the dollars they have. These activities will require a mix of for-profit, nonprofit, and volunteer activities. Be there! Keep your eyes open for opportunities and if you have the means to financially support these efforts — do it!
  8. Go on record to hold your local legal system accountable - Join the police commission or another community organization to hold the legal system responsible for their actions. Don't wait for someone else to do it.
  9. Hold your local officials accountable - Let’s be clear, voting is table stakes for living in a democracy. Everyone must get educated on the issues/candidates and vote, regardless of any inconvenience or barriers that may exist. Engagement in our representative democracy cannot stop there. True citizenship demands engagement and commitment. Next to strong, free investigative journalism, continuous engagement is likely the best way to make sure we’re getting what we pay for. It’s an additional investment, but worth it. Do your part to ensure free and fair elections by volunteering at a polling station and/or calling attention to any electoral interference that you observe. Come out for local elections in addition to national ones. Local elections can create meaningful change in our day-to-day lives.
  10. Pay for good journalism - we get "the media" we deserve. We are the consumers, and we make the decisions. We cannot sit back and complain about an industry that delivers us what we keep coming back to consume. So, instead, let’s engage responsibly. Invest in the media we want instead of complaining about the media we've got. Learn more at SaveJournalism.org.
  11. Commit 30 minutes a day to listen to an alternative point of view - However you are consuming media, search out stories with opposing viewpoints. I first learned this at the Naval Academy where we had to read opposing sides of stories and discuss them every day at lunch. I do this now by checking how The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are reporting the same stories. I also do this in innovation projects to develop a 360 degree view of a given problem. Try it. You'll be surprised what you learn when you take the time to do your own research.
  12. Contribute to a social justice organization - Donating money may be the easiest thing on the list, but it may also be the least impactful to you and the movement. Surely, money matters, but given a choice between your money or your commitment, most organizations will likely choose your commitment. Additionally, we need to be judicious about which organizations get funding. In my experience, there are often highly effective, data-driven, results oriented nonprofits that struggle to secure funding, while well-marketed, storytellers walk off with the cash and the glory (often without the results). I once heard a wise man say that a successful movement must be energized, organized, and well-funded. So, give if you can, but make sure whoever you give to has a plan, metrics, a track record, and an accountability mechanism.


We're currently faced with tremendous challenges to our very existence. If I'm right, we're also in the middle of a transition to a higher state of being as humans. Will you join me in reinvigorating the human spirit and moving forward together with a shared sense of purpose?

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Phil Dillard

Phil Dillard is an entrepreneur, innovation consultant, and navy veteran who teaches skills like leadership and strategy to business executives. He's also a black man who grew up and lives in America. Phil shares some of his perspectives surrounding racism in America and suggests 12 different ways to help create justice and equity for all people.

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