Where were you when…? That’s a question often tied to major life moments. Whether on the local or national scene, there are social change markers when shifts happened in our day-to-day living. This may be where we find ourselves during the Coronavirus pandemic as cases spike and news of infections hit closer to home.
At times, people have asked that question to help them review prior events. Some millennials may have asked amongst friends or biz associates, “where were you when the housing bubble burst which led to the market crash of 2008, or when the first plane hit the twin towers in 2001?” With the Coronavirus outbreak, years from now folks might be asking “where were you when the world changed?”
If you’re looking at such historical, social and cultural events through the lens of the See America In Color (SAIC) civic engagement campaign, the backstory and takeaways point to a re-occurring theme. Yes, there was personal grief, economic pain and social challenges. In addition, you’ll also find a system issue that was somewhat a factor being overlooked initially but then changed eventually as a kind of ‘social override.’ This is an important reason why the SAIC Essay Contest for America’s students plays an important part for how we reboot civics education. Moreover, with teamwork among educators, administrators, parents and community leaders, we hope to add Arts, Science and Health categories to the contest.
We can think of this ‘social override’ like getting to the checkout line at the store and finding a price difference for an item. The price on the display may have been changed, but the price in the system was not. The clerk calls over the supervisor for an override. The consumer gets the benefit of the new lower price, not the old higher price. That’s how SAIC can foster change where civic engagement brings the override.
We can use this as a guide for how we bounce-back after the Coronavirus pandemic or how we spotlight Independence Day in a new way. Throughout history it’s been a kind of ‘America Pride Override’ (APO) that took us from colonial times to independence, slavery to abolition, segregation to civil rights. So, APO may be useful in taking us from “America Divide to E Pluribus Unum” (out of many one) and from public disinformation to civics reboot and engagement.
Even though the virus outbreak canceled NCAA March Madness and put the NBA season on hold, there’s something we can take from basketball to step-up our ‘civics game.’ In the same way that the 3-point shot changed the game with a new way of scoring, we can be #HometownStrong along three lanes in the community. In other words, we can add a 3-point shot to our civics game as a:
- Roster player
Making a college or pro team is a big deal. You’re listed on the roster with a spot on the squad. When we complete the Census, we’re put on the civic roll. As citizens when we register to vote, we’re part of the election roll and get to have a seat at the table. Plus, people choose to serve on hometown projects in a selfless, give-themselves-away manner and score big. An engaged citizen is important to a great society as a roster player is to a champion team.
- Role player
Basketball has court positions of center, guard or forward. Those who become role players do more than just play their positions. They affect the game in ways that might not necessarily make the stat sheet. A citizen ‘role player’ shares their voice or scores high points beyond the stat sheet. Imagine, if the Empire State Building can shine a light for first responders and other frontline players, then we can be points-of-light for our fellow citizens in the community.
- Franchise player
This is often the face-of-the-team or game leader who sees the big picture. It can be the go-to person in a close game or the key player at the buzzer. Citizens become franchise players when they see the big picture of a community vision for living their best life. They see what civics reboot and engagement mean for country.
So, will Coronavirus deepen disagreements and disinformation or help us move past ‘America Divide’? Even with empty streets, we look forward to a new day for how SAIC makes a difference and fulfills a larger purpose. The public will have more knowledge of the price we pay for not questioning elected officials or challenging those who shamelessly spread disinformation.
In the past when America’s pride hinged on shameless policies (e.g. slavery, segregation) the civic response was an override to bring priceless change (e.g. abolition, civil rights). That’s why SAIC isn’t meant to be political, but instead aspirational towards our best life experiences. Throughout history it’s been civic engagement that brought change to the soup line, troop line and maybe even now for the soul train line at the virtual party next door.
You can join the conversation and support our efforts to “See America In Color: With 2020 Vision” at the Facebook ‘Hometown Chat’ Page here www.facebook.com/seeamericaincolor.
Tracks: Alicia Keys– New Day – https://youtu.be/yvZwSPhvjts
Jill Scott – Golden – https://youtu.be/4QCXr79Rkcw