Make Change | Shaun King

Summary of: Make Change: How to Fight Injustice, Dismantle Systemic Oppression, and Own Our Future
By: Shaun King


Dive into the world of activism through Shaun King’s thought-provoking book ‘Make Change: How to Fight Injustice, Dismantle Systemic Oppression, and Own Our Future’. This summary will guide you through the crucial aspects of understanding change through the lens of history, identifying the causes you deeply care about, and overcoming excuses to take action. You’ll learn to focus on a single cause, explore how to contribute your unique skills, and acknowledge the importance of having a solid plan. Discover how every action, big or small, can contribute to significant change and recognize that making a difference starts with you.

The Fluctuating History of the World

Shaun’s worldview is shaken when he learns about Leopold von Ranke’s grand historical project, which shows that history is a constant fluctuation of peaks and dips: peace and war, prosperity and famine, fascism and freedom. Shaun had believed that human history was evolving toward peace and justice until he understood that progress is followed by conservative backlash. The world is currently in a dip, and the worst dips in history happened because people chose not to address systemic flaws. To build a better future, we must work together.

Personal Experience Defines Passion

Shaun’s experience with racial injustice in high school led him to dedicate his life to fighting against it. The key message is that our personal stories have a significant impact on the causes we are passionate about. Growing up as a mixed-race kid in a town where racial tensions ran high, Shaun became a victim of racially motivated attacks. This experience fueled his passion for fighting injustice and led him to study and learn about the culture he’d missed out on growing up. His personal experience made him aware of the mental and physical pain racial injustice causes its victims. Similarly, everyone has a story that shapes their beliefs and the causes they are passionate about.

Choose Your Cause

To become an effective agent of change, you must determine one cause you feel passionately about and commit yourself to it. Life will keep providing you with excuses, but it’s crucial to stay focused on the cause you believe in.

As individuals, we all have limited time and resources. Although we may care about different causes, we can only fight for one effectively. To help narrow your focus, ask yourself which issue makes you feel the most sadness, rage, and hopelessness. That’s the cause you should fight for.

Once you have decided on a cause, you must commit your time, skills, and resources to it. You may be tempted to believe that your contribution is insignificant, but every contribution matters. When you stay silent in the face of injustice, you are passively supporting that injustice.

Believing that you are too old, too young, too white, or not smart enough to be an agent for change is mere nonsense. Successful social movements depend on people from all walks of life, and people like Greta Thunberg and Harry Belafonte have shown that age is just a number.

Lastly, don’t let a busy life hold you back. If you want to make a change, you must commit time for your activist work as you would for any other important task. Even a few hours of volunteer work each week can have a significant impact.

Remember, life will continually provide excuses, but it’s crucial to stay focused on the cause you believe in. Like Shaun, who buried his activist career after accepting a teaching job, it’s not too late to get back on track. When Shaun saw the video of a police officer choking Eric Garner, it served as his wake-up call.

Getting Started with Activism

Are you ready to make a change but don’t know where to start? Look for leading organizations dedicated to your cause, find a local chapter near you, and ask how you can get started as a volunteer. Read up on the organization, their cause, and their volunteer process. Give them time to respond and be patient. Once you start, dedicate yourself to listening and learning, even if it means doing small jobs such as data entry. Your unique skills and talents will have their chance to shine eventually.

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