SHAUN KING: Understanding the Ways of Fighting For Change

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Being an activist means being let down over and over again.

In 2014, when I quit my job to dedicate my life to fighting racism and police violence, I hit an emotional low. Me and a lot of other organizers did.

It was the year Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice were all murdered by police.

We fought so hard for every single one of these cases, and we genuinely believed justice would be achieved. The evidence was so overwhelming. We knew the criminal justice system was broken, but surely these men wouldn’t get away with literal murder. We weren’t yet accustomed to the truth that the system is not broken, but purposefully built against people of color. It was not designed to grant justice, it was designed to oppress.

It was devastating when not one officer was held accountable, despite the tireless efforts of leaders across the country.. I genuinely felt hopeless. I didn’t know where we were supposed to go from there.

Then, I got a call from the White House.

A friend of mine who worked for the Obama administration said they were putting together a task force on policing. He said so much of the information they knew about policing came from the work I did, the articles I wrote and posts I made. He thanked me for my work and role in the movement and for helping people tell their stories.

He added that I shouldn’t be surprised when the members of the taskforce were announced, and I was not on the list.

I was young and naive to think I was about to get a job in the White House, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt. I was looking for a way to further the agenda of the Black Lives Matter movement and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Once the list of members was released, I was disappointed in the lack of radical views they held. It was a bunch of moderates who I knew would do little to help.

So I did the one thing I now know I shouldn’t have done, I took to social media to critique the task force. Again, I was young and hot headed and knew far less about being a leader than I know now.

Within hours, I was trending.

On today’s episode of The Breakdown, Shaun shares this deeply personal story and everything it taught him about what it means to be part of a social justice movement.