Resolutions can be powerful. With 2015's end quickly approaching, we all get the chance to put the past behind us, make a fresh start and set ambitious goals to become the best, truest, happiest and most fulfilled version of ourselves.
Why shouldn't the U.S. do the same?
If we were in charge of creating this country's social justice New Year's resolutions for 2016 and the sky was the limit, here's what our forever-optimistic hearts would hope for:
Stop treating young black kids like criminals.Getty
This year we've written about the biased treatment of students of color that reinforces the school-to-prison pipeline by treating kids more like criminals than students, often actually putting them behind bars. Black students make up just 16 percent of all American students yet represent 31 percent of students who are arrested in school, black students are consistently punished much more severely for the same behavior exhibited by white students starting as early as preschool.
The consequences of such bias can even be deadly, as evidenced by the killing of unarmed, black children and teens like Tamir Rice and Mike Brown by police. Addressing this bias is a necessary step in ending the rampant, institutionalized racism in our criminal justice system, and shrinking the outrageous size of our prison industrial complex. Let's do it in 2016.
Stop pretending female-led films don't make money.Getty
Women in Hollywood made some big, very bold strides in 2015 by calling out pervasive sexism in the film industry and demanding that executives stop claiming they're not making more female-led films because they don’t make enough money -- with good reason. This year we learned that from 2006-2015, the top-grossing movies about men have made an average of $80.6 million, while movies about women have made an average of $121.6 million.
Close the wage gap.
The gender gap isn't limited to Hollywood. On average, women across all industries make only 79 percent of what men make for the exact same work, and the gap is even worse for women of color. Latina women, for example, still earn only 54 percent as much as their white male counterparts. Recent studies estimate that at the current rate, women won't make as much money as men do for the exact same work until the year 2133. That's 118 years away -- which is 118 too many.
Reduce instances of police brutality to zero.Getty
In addition to learning that police violence disproportionately affects people of color, this year we also learned that people with mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police. It isn't like this everywhere. American police killed more people in November of 2015 than did police in the U.K. in 95 years, and the numbers of people killed by police are even lower in other parts of the world. Activists have laid out comprehensive plans for reducing police violence to zero. There's no better time than now.
Make the minimum wage a living wage.Getty
The federal minimum wage is still a mere $7.25 an hour -- not even close to enough for a single person working full time to survive on, let alone support a family. As a result, working families are often forced to rely on $153 billion in public assistance every year, meaning taxpayers are paying for what businesses refuse to. The whole point of creating a minimum wage in the first place was to ensure that Americans who worked hard full time could survive on their wages. The Fight For $15 activists are onto something big.
Put an end to mass shootings.Getty
After Australia experienced a terrible mass shooting in 1996, the country enacted such successful gun control laws that they haven't experienced a single mass shooting since. The U.S. now sees a mass shooting nearly every day, and more than 30 Americans are murdered with firearms daily. It's long past time for us to stand up to the NRA and do something about it.
Stop blaming people with mental illness for gun violence.Getty
In addition to working to end mass shootings, we need to stop using such violence to stigmatize mental illness. It's been shown again and again that most people with mental illness are not violent, and that most violent crimes are committed by people who are not mentally ill. Blaming the mentally ill for gun violence is a distraction from the real problem, and stigmatizing mental illness often prevents the people who need it most from seeking treatment.
Stop believing sexual assault is inevitable -- and do a better job of supporting survivors.Getty
In 2015 we all spent a lot of much-needed time talking about sexual assault, and about the ways things like catcalling and casual sexism contribute to rape culture. These things are all fixable -- but it's on us to fix them.
Here are a few concrete steps we can take toward supporting survivors: Let's resolve to believe victims when they come forward, stop engaging in victim-blaming for good and finally get the f-ck to work on testing our egregiously enormous back-log of untested rape kits to help bring justice to survivors.
Stop promoting dress codes that stigmatize (and, ultimately, sexualize) teen girls and their bodies.
Students across the country made us proud in 2015 by calling out their schools' sexist, shame-inducing school dress codes. Let's do the right thing in 2016 and make it clear that all students, regardless of gender, should be able to wear what they want without having to feel objectified, unsafe, or ashamed of their bodies at school.
Refuse to give in to Islamophobia.
From the presidential campaign trail, to the retail industry and schools across the U.S., Islamophobia has spend a whole lot of time rearing its ugly head in 2015. As Malala has so wisely reminded us, it's "very unjust that we associate 1.6 billion [the number of Muslims worldwide] with a few terrorist organizations,” and allowing Islamophobia to run rampant "will only radicalize more terrorists." Let's prove humanity is better than that in 2016.
Keep abortion and reproductive healthcare safe and legal.Getty
The Supreme Court decided way back in 1973 that choosing whether or not to have children is a constitutional right for American women, but in 2015, almost 400 anti-abortion bills were introduced across the country. In parts of the U.S. it's already nearly impossible for women who need abortion-care to find it, which has resulted in at least 100,000 women in Texas attempting dangerous, self-induced abortions. Let's stand up for women in 2016 by demanding that our constitutional rights remain inalienable, too.
Achieve actual equality for the LGBT community.
2015 was a huge year for the advancement of LGBT equality in the U.S.: Marriage equality finally became a reality, the transgender community gained an unprecedented amount of mainstream visibility and even the White House called for an end to the harmful practice of conversion therapy. Let's keep celebrating those victories by refusing to forget all that's still left to do to ensure true LGBT equality.
In 2016 let's finally ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in schools and in the workplace. Let's stop all the lies used to deny trans people basic bathroom rights. And let's do whatever it takes to put an end the epidemic of violence against trans women, and especially trans women of color.
Start treating climate change like the public health emergency it really is.
We spent much of 2015 worrying about the negative impacts of climate change -- especially once we realized that even climate scientists are now glum about our the planet's prognosis. The scary truth is that climate change is real, it's here now, and it's already starting to make parts of the earth straight-up unlivable for humans.
Let's make 2016 the year we finally stop wasting time pretending this isn't a real and present threat, and start saving ourselves.