A Call to Action in response to a Call to Arms

January 8, 2021

Where to begin? As an armed mob of insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol, Resource Media happened to be on an all-staff call—it was soon filled with a sharing of our stream of consciousness—expressing shock, anger, fear and anxiety.

“This does not happen in the U.S.” But this week, it did. The firsthand accounts are harrowing: blood meets stone, knees on carpet, shots fired. Pounding heartbeats and teary-eyed phone calls.

Although on some level we should not be shocked that the escalating rhetoric and wrongdoing of this president would take us this far, it’s inevitable to feel unsettled by an attack like this that affected life and liberty in the halls of power.

The Jan. 6 insurrection has laid bare the vast hypocrisy that is at work in our country. So many in our nation claimed to be offended by Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem because it was “unpatriotic,” yet easily mustered support for a violent coup attempt. They claim Black Lives Matter freedom fighters deserve rubber bullets, tear gas, and beatings but see no need for resistance against fascists attempting to overthrow the government. They claim to honor the Constitution in its original form, yet are actively disrupting our lawmakers’ Constitutionally-defined processes. If these contradictions and hypocrisies don’t make any sense, it’s because they aren’t based in any values-based world view. They’re based on white supremacy and racism, different and unjust rules, and a desire that these rules be enforced through state violence.

This week’s violent acts at the Capitol underscore our team’s commitment to equity and justice in our work as communicators. It has always been our core belief that the way the world communicates is not just wordsmithing, a turn of phrase, hashtags, and catchy slogans. Words can create mirages, but they can also move people to action—for good and for ill. In this case, the lies, deception, vitriol, and slogans that the far right has been spewing for years have culminated in a terrifying moment of crisis. No longer just a reality TV show script or a string of 280 characters, Trump’s words have animated and weaponized extremist groups. While some may say that “this is not who we are,” this attack has held up a mirror even to those who still refuse to look in it.

The 2020 election has also highlighted the importance of the media. Especially in recent years, reporters have paid a high price for reporting factual information; According to the New York Times, the number of journalists killed for their reporting doubled in 2020.

Journalism is an essential part of our democracy—enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution. The codes, ethics, and principles of professional, responsible journalists are an essential but tenuous thread that holds together a disenfranchised and disenchanted public with elected officials. The media plays a central role in the public’s ability to participate in democracy, ranging from the presidential election to advocating for reforms at the local level. Without the media reporting on the Capitol raid, risking their lives to do so, we would not have been able to connect and provide support to each other, check on relatives, or accurately understand the consequences of this attempted coup.

We send our heartfelt thanks to all of the journalists who have stayed strong over the last four years, enduring unprecedented bullying and harassment, asking the difficult and important questions, diligently checking sources and exposing lies—even as their jobs have become less secure and more life-threatening.

The urgency of this moment demands that we continue and double down on our efforts to heal our divide and make progressive movements more effective, more long-lasting, reaching and engaging more people. We call on our amazing community of partners—our collective actions will need to be unwavering in opposition to those who seek to undermine the will of the people in the name of white supremacy, greed and ceaseless pursuit of power. Through actions large and small, we can make a difference in undoing America’s legacy of racism while building upon our promise of a free society. We hope that you’ll join us.

We realize that not everyone is looking for things to do. But for some, having some guidance on what to do in these stressful times is helpful. If this is you, please continue reading.

Things you can do: 

Protect Black communities and be an unwavering force for racial and social justice. Pursue community-led solutions with relentless curiosity. Pass the mic so Black leaders can shine. Donate to Black-led organizations that are fighting mightily—and successfully—for a truly representative and responsive government and fighting ongoing disenfranchisement. 

Invest in high-quality media and communications infrastructure. Subscribe and donate to responsible, professional journalism outlets that hold themselves to the highest standards, at the national and local levels. 

Engage in online conversations, use humanity, humor and facts to dispel dangerous rumors and myths early. Stay vigilant and report dangerous, inciting rhetoric that aims to dehumanize, shut out, or do harm to others. If you have white friends or family who sympathize with these insurrectionists, keep them close—they are you. Come up with a plan to continue to face them. 

Participate in local politics and democratic processes to help improve our communities. If processes are not fair and open, make them better. Advocate your representatives to reverse racial, economic, and health inequities. Local and state government matter greatly, as they impact processes like redistricting as well as reform in police departments and criminal justice systems. The action of judges, county sheriffs, district attorneys, and public defenders make a significant impact on our daily lives.

Support the Association of LGBTQ Journalists, Native American Journalists Association, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Black Journalists and Society of Professional Journalists.

By Sian Wu, with contributions from Pilar Montoya, Liz Banse, Amy Frykman and Marla Wilson.

Header photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash.