2020 was a hard year. I am ready to put it behind me and move forward with what I hope 2021 will bring. Accordingly, I have narrowed my wish list for 2021 down to five.
First, though, let's say a gleeful goodbye to 2020. John Pavlovitz captured the essence of 2020 in a hilarious post called, "Dear 2020, Please GTFO."
Here is an excerpt:
Please forgive my inelegance… but I'm rightly exhausted by you and I think I speak for seven and a half billion people when I say that you have been an unrelenting planetary nightmare and we simply cannot abide you a single day longer.
Take your things and leave.
Pack up your insidious virus,
Amen to that!
So goodbye 2020. Take your things and go. Leave behind the few positives you gave us.
What were the positives? To be completely truthful, 2020 was not an unrelenting disaster for me personally. Yes, I stayed on edge much of the time. Yes, I had recurrent bouts of anxiety. Yes, many things made me angry. (Pavlovitz captured quite a few of them.) Until right before the election, I had to consciously limit how much news I watched.
Yet good things happened. Here are highlights of my top five, from the most personal to the most public:
The three of us and our other contributors are committed to helping make the world a better place. This blog is just one expression, yet a most meaningful expression to us.
I'm excited about those who have joined us so far and am eager to meet our future members. So far, everyone attracted to Pathfinders has a profound commitment to co-creating a world that works for everyone. They bring critical thinking and hearts full of caring and compassion.
I had felt stymied – how could I explain to my White friends and colleagues what they could not see? How could I explain, as Langston Hughes put it, that America was never America to me?
Then, at the beginning of 2020, technology came to the rescue, forcing into our awareness the vivid awfulness of the series of murders of young Black men and women, demonstrating convincingly that we had not crossed over into a post-racial America. And to my surprise (and my sorrow over George Floyd's murder), people of all races became once again concerned and engaged.
I'm one of the millions of people who had feared we were headed toward an autocratic government. Knowing that I am now comfortably in the majority on this issue is immensely comforting. President-Elect Biden's steps toward an administration that "looks like America" are giving me renewed hope. More about that later.
The black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws – racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society…and suggests that radical reconstruction of society is the real issue to be faced.
– Martin Luther King Jr.
Building on those successes from last year, here are my five wishes for 2021.
First, I wish that the concern for racial justice doesn't abate now that we have a new sheriff in town. I remember people relaxing when President Obama got elected, even though before his election, he pleaded with us to stay active. We didn't. And then we blamed Obama for what he did not do.
Let's not go back into complacency again. Having such a close call with dictatorship has led many of us to take our civic responsibilities seriously. I wrote about playing the long game after this election. This means we should increase support for those structural changes that will help support democracy – eliminating gerrymandering, revitalizing the Voting Rights Act, term limits on the US Supreme Court, and so on.
Second, I wish for people to better understand the connection between racial and economic justice. Many who oppose racial oppression fail to see how current economic policies support both racial and economic oppression.
The current unhealthy level of income inequality began in the 1970s and has risen steadily to become even more appallingly unequal.
As income inequality has risen, so has racial and gender economic inequality. The chart below disturbs me every time I look at it, as it represents the compound results of exploited labor and denied opportunities.
My wish, then, is that people who are highly committed to racial and social justice will also support economic justice.
Third, I wish for people to see the connections between their everyday actions and habits and the oppression and othering that they deplore. As Pogo said, we have met the enemy, and he is us. An example: a common mantra is to not talk politics and religion with family and friends. What it also means is we do not discuss policy and current events for fear the conversation will turn divisive. Yet if we don't share our information with those we care about, how are we all supposed to become responsible citizens acting on informed knowledge?
Now, one of the reasons people say they don't talk politics with family and friends is they don't know how to talk about divisive issues without becoming – shall we say – hostile. Because we don't want to risk alienating others, we avoid conversations about critical topics that determine the direction of the country and world. This leaves those we care about to rely on media that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, and we all stay stuck in our respective tribes without skills or means to bridge the divide and bring about the healing we claim to want.
So my fourth wish is that we learn how to talk to those with whom we disagree – fervently disagree. As they say, we learn to disagree without being disagreeable.
This wish is what Pathfinders is about, and beyond that, what my work is about. I am beyond grateful that many, many others share my vision – a world in which we can talk openly about differences, influence one another, love one another, and eradicate those habits of thought and behavior that support us in oppressing others.
A world that works for everyone and no one needs to prove themselves better by putting down someone else. A world where people see the abundance that exists everywhere and work to eliminate the economic and emotional insecurity that keeps so many people hostage.
Why would I dare hope for such a world? To do otherwise is to give in and tolerate the current level of inhumanity we impose on one another.
Focusing on the evils of the world can be dismaying. This year alone has held a decade's worth of emotional bombshells.
Yet I choose optimism – not for an immediate turnaround, but for progress, however slowly it occurs. I begin the new year with hope: for a vaccine, for a new political climate, for the continued slow march toward social justice.
Hope is the fundamental basis for Pathfinders and Leading Consciously, the hope that we can make the world better – together.
If I am to have a fifth wish, it would be this: That you, too, retain hope – and go into action to bring your hope into reality.
Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have courage to remake the world as it should be.
– Barack Obama
Questions to ask yourself:
Leading Consciously concepts and skills covered in this blog post:
We just launched our new membership program, Pathfinders: Leadership for Racial and Social Justice. The third module bringing in the new year is Self-Enterprising Skills, starting on January 4. Come join us and other Pathfinders in leading the way to racial and social justice.
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