Words Speak Gently

By Samir Shukla

Everything in life is marketing, like it or not.

Businesses spend considerable time and wealth on branding and marketing to persuade people to buy their stuff, use their services, take vacations with them. Focus groups are brought in to see if logos, slogans, advertising and marketing gimmicks help make their products more marketable and less intrusive.

Political and social activists should focus their messages, just like marketers, and gather supporters to affect policy at local, statewide, and national levels. During the recent nationwide protests to address police brutality, an activist term, a marketing slogan of sorts, has become common. You see this everywhere.

Defund the Police.

It is one of the most self-defeating slogans I have ever heard. When all the variables are explained, the bottom line for what it means is reduce the police footprint, move resources to other community efforts, and bring in non-police experts for community uplifting. It's essentially about reforming policing to meet contemporary needs and, especially, reducing racial violence, albeit it must be fine-tuned for each location.

So why not just reframe the messaging for that? This may not be sexy, but the idea is to get the message across and create change. Come up with simple points to explain your ideas of transforming the police, gear them to the average person and then organize to make those points become policy.

The problem with "Defund the Police" is that it requires constant explaining and, more importantly, defending. The average person will look at that and think you want to reduce or eliminate police. It may resonate with angry protesters, but it's just poor choice of words for much-needed reform and ways to improve policing and community outreach.

Why not NextGen Police? It is social media ready, catchy and makes people think, Ok, I'm game, explain further. You don't have to defend that slogan. Show up with the sign “Defund the Police" and half the country will clench their fists and look for a fight. Yeah, defund this, you lefty. See what I mean?

Reforming the police means different things around the country, with variations for big cities and small towns. There are metropolitan areas that may actually need more police presence, while others may need to reduce the presence and redistribute the budgets as to affect community uplifting.

Be smart. Persuasion is a golden skill. Show common people how you will improve their lives and they will respond. They don't care about sloganeering.

Protests are worthy, use them to meet like-minded folks and then organize.

Change will have to come through the political process, namely elections. Get like-minded people elected and those ideas have a chance of becoming policy. Realize also that social change is a very slow process. You can instill new policies and rules, but can't change hearts and minds instantly. That takes time.

Social activists must also learn the trade of marketers.

The only thing the slogan "Defund the Police" will accomplish is scare grandma, and grandma votes.


Samir Shukla is the editor of Saathee magazine. Contact - Samir@saathee.com