Make Change Book Summary - Make Change Book explained in key points
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Make Change summary

Shaun King

How to Fight Injustice, Dismantle Systemic Oppression, and Own Our Future

3.8 (177 ratings)
22 mins

What is Make Change about?

Informed by the life and work of successful social justice activist Shaun King, Make Change (2020) is your guide on how to join the fight for a better world. King is a leading figure in the fight against police brutality and mass incarceration in America, and his wins and losses along the way have taught him vital lessons on how to create real, lasting social change. No matter the cause you’re invested in, these blinks will show you how to use your skills and resources to make a real difference. 

Table of Contents

    Make Change
    summarized in 7 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 7

    In order to understand change, you need to understand history.

    The most profound insight about how the world works came to Shaun in a college class he didn’t really want to take. 

    It was 2015, and he’d just gotten more serious about his activism. Over the past few months, he’d emerged as a leading social media figure in the budding Black Lives Matter movement. But the many setbacks the movement had suffered were taking a toll on him. In November 2014, 12-year-old Tamir Rice had been shot in Cleveland, Ohio, for playing with a toy gun. A little later, the police officers responsible for the murder of Michael Brown and Eric Garner had been cleared of all charges.

    So Shaun tried to build a deeper foundation for his work by enrolling in the Master of African American Studies program at Arizona State University. 

    Here’s the key message: In order to understand change, you need to understand history. 

    In one of his first classes, Introduction to Historiography, Shaun learned about Leopold von Ranke – a nineteenth-century German historian who’d attempted to compile a complete timeline of world history. Initially, Shaun was convinced that the theories of an old, white German man couldn’t possibly provide any useful insight into modern-day activism. 

    But Ranke's grand historical project revealed something that shook up Shaun's entire worldview. Up until then, Shaun had believed that human history was evolving toward peace and justice. 

    But Ranke’s timeline showed that history was a constant fluctuation of peaks and dips: peace and war, prosperity and famine, fascism and freedom. Reliably, progressive pushes to make the world a better place were followed by conservative backlash. For instance, when Black people enjoyed a brief period of relative freedom after the Civil War, the American South soon introduced oppressive Jim Crow laws that constituted an updated version of slavery. 

    And right now, one could argue that we’re living in the “dip” following the election of America’s first Black president, Barack Obama. But none of history’s worst dips – war, genocide, or fascism – have happened out of the blue. Even the election of a right-wing demagogue like Donald Trump had a decade-long buildup. Trump’s presidency was enabled by economic, social, and political structures set up long ago and allowed to thrive by people who chose not to see their systemic flaws. 

    And while it’s easy to slide into a dip, it’s a lot harder to come out of one. Doing so requires many people working together to build a better future – people like you. 

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    Best quote from Make Change

    Make that problem into your problem.

    —Shaun King
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    About the Author

    Shaun King is a civil rights activist and organizer committed to fighting police brutality, mass incarceration, and racial injustice in America. After the murder of Eric Garner in 2014, he became one of the leading figures of the Black Lives Matter movement. He has written for the New York Daily News and the Intercept, spearheads organizations such as Grassroots Law and the Real Justice PAC, and was named one of the 25 most influential people on the internet by Time magazine in 2018. 

    Who should read Make Change?

    • Budding activists and future organizers
    • Shaun King admirers who want to know more about his life and work
    • Anyone looking to make a real difference in the world

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