As have many of you, I have been in conversations recently about the various issues of our current social moment. Of course there are many and varied opinions about what can or can't be done, and some of the most recent conversations have been filled with pain, anger and hopelessness.
At this point, I have been working vocationally to address the issues of poverty & racism for nearly 30 years; and when I reflect on where we are now verses where we were 30 years ago, I can not only see progress, I also have HOPE that many of the changes we need to see are likely to be realized over the next 5-10 years. While I understand the fear, anger and frustration people feel at what appears to be evidence that nothing has changed (I often feel it too...) I still have HOPE.
For me HOPE is not a Pollyannaish emotion that does not see the reality of the pain and hurt people are experiencing. My HOPE is informed first, by an understanding of the complexity of the issues that contribute to the problems we face today; and second, by an historical perspective of how circumstances often align in ways that make social change possible.
Throughout American history, there have been moments where circumstances conflate to catalyze, what at the time would be considered, radical societal change (Malcom Gladwell eludes to this phenomenon in his book the Tipping Point"). That change would impact politics, education, religion and the economy. The last such moment was in the 60's, as the Baby Boomer Generation came of age. The Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, John & Bobby Kennedy, and the advent of television news coverage (to name a few...) conflated to emboldened them to challenge things they felt were wrong in society and ultimately changed them as their generation transitioned into positions of power and influence throughout the 70's & 80's.
We are in the midst of such a moment today with the Millennial Generation. Born and raised in the wake of 911, and the advent of social media, this generation's conflating circumstances include: the viral videos of Travon Martin, Tamir Rice Sandra Bland and Michael Brown; the Me Too and Black Lives Matter Movements, the Global Pandemic and the broadcast of the 8 minutes, 46 second murdered George Floyd (to name a few...). These have emboldened them to challenge the things they feel are wrong in society today and as they ultimately transition into positions of power and influence, my HOPE is that they, like their Boomer predecessors, continue the work to change them...
Robert Caldwell is the Executive Director of AnswerPoverty.org and has been a practitioner and thought leader on the issues of poverty & race for more than 25 years. Visit AnswerPoverty.org