What makes me hopeful

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”                                         Nelson Mandela

When I learn more about the history of Black and brown people in America or am confronted by the latest racist act or inaction, I realize I am often in a space with just two emotions – anger and sadness. Anger and sadness that my people have faced such hardships and inhumanity. Anger that racism still thrives in America. Sadness that the will to achieve racial justice still seems to be embraced by so few.  When I realize I have these feelings, I make myself think about what gives me hope.

Richmond, VA activists for racial justice — Chelsea Higgs Wise, Jewel Gatling, Valerie Slater and Chlo’e Edwards

I am hopeful when I go to my hometown, Richmond, VA, and interact with young activists committed to challenging the system, utilizing new tactics, and continuing the fight for racial justice.

I am hopeful when I read a friend’s Facebook post about her white yoga instructor in Vallejo, California who closed her class asking for prayers for the people of Ukraine and continued by offering prayers for the Black and brown people in Ukraine who were forced to let white people leave first.

I am hopeful when a reader of my blog tells me she is white and 80 years old and asks me not to give up on her demographic’s role in understanding and working for racial justice.

I am hopeful when a white friend in Florida notices that the Google pictures for a nearby majority Black community feature only negative imagery of Black people and then does something to change that.

I am hopeful when an all-white group of college friends decides to pursue a deep examination of some of the racial elements of our school – William and Mary – its community – Williamsburg, VA – and our country’s current racial reality.

Weissberg Foundation trustees and staff at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ Kehinde Wiley sculpture, Rumors of War

I am hopeful when a foundation board on which I serve commits fully to learning, understanding, and investing in the pursuit of racial justice through its support of Black and brown-led organizations and -owned businesses.

I am hopeful when the Richmond Public School system embraces a supplemental curriculum called REAL Richmond, focused on the parts of Richmond, Virginia’s racial history that aren’t in the textbook.

When thinking of what makes a person hopeful about the pursuit of racial justice, some might point to the president’s selection of a Black woman as his nominee for the Supreme Court or the multiple efforts across the country to protect voting rights for people of color or  Evanston, Illinois, an evolving case study in how a municipality can offer reparations to the descendants of enslaved people. These are interventions that will have deep, meaningful, long-lasting impact. They represent major change, change writ large.

At the same time, I recognize that each of those actions started with one person finally getting it. One person, who understood racial injustice, and acted. And that one person may not have known what an inspiration they were to others. Often, seemingly small, isolated steps lead to institutional, and societal change that will ultimately ensure racial justice.

What are you doing that gives hope to others? Five years from now, who will recognize you as the inspiration that sparked their work for racial justice?

                                          “A leader is a dealer in hope.”                                                                                        Napoleon Bonaparte


6 Replies to “What makes me hopeful”

  1. I am hopeful when a major conference of city planners and architects (Congress for the New Urbanism) devotes the whole gathering to the intersection of racial justcie, equity and climate change.

  2. Thank you for your wisdom and inspiration, Tamara. Your words “racism still thrives in America” are very powerful, from the perspective that “thriving” is often a very positive state, but not when what is thriving is harmful. So, that has provided me a framework to address your question: “What are you doing that gives hope to others?” I will focus on helping anti-racism thrive. I hope to provide a positive example and also lift up the many positive leaders who, indeed, make me hopeful too. You are always at the fore. Again, thank you!

  3. This is such an excellent post. You have inspired so many; there is no way for you to know all of the positive outcomes that come from your hard work. As we witness the divisive behavior of many who want to pass their own agendas in our schools and communities, I am encouraged by the pushback that I have been seeing. I followed your link to read about REAL Richmond, and it looks like such a positive and interesting program. I wish we had had REAL Virginia history while I was in school. It would have saved so much time and heartache if we had learned actual history while we were in school.
    Your question, “What are you doing that gives hope to others?” has caused me to reflect and to come up short, as I have no good answer at the moment. I just posted your blog on our local Call out Racism FB page, but there is more that I can do. Thank you for the blog and for the nudge at the end.

  4. I am hopeful because the number of people my age (70) who were taught a history that was missing a great deal of critical information are now trying to fill in those gaps. I read constantly – Tamara, you have recommended a number of books-because I’m playing catch up ball, and I need to understand. My children & grandchildren also give me great hope. They come down squarely on the side of human rights – without exception – and don’t want to hear “Be patient”.

  5. Hope springs eternal. Change and the pursuit thereof takes a whole community and positivity and hands on commitment to be part of said change and not just a bystander is what we should be about , no matter where we live or how we were raised or “educated”. Thanks Again Tamara !

  6. Thank you for this post and your book that I finished recently. Your hopefulness amidst deeply imbedded racism underscores the need for white people like me to do the dismantling. My first step was my recently published novel: HEY, WHITE GIRL. I am hearing from white people who read it that they are being challenged to think differently. I have many more steps to take. Thank you for being a guide.

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