“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.
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.
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