I read a quote by a young, black intellectual who believed that full racial equality would never happen in America. He felt the opposite of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in regards to the Dream ever being realized.
The sense of hopelessness struck me forcefully, for when hope is gone, what is left? When a sense of what is possible is no more, then people stop striving to produce change, for what is the point if there are no gains to be made? Why waste the energy to do what is right, if there aren’t any possibilities that change will eventually come?
When the anticipation of change is lost, the blanket of hopelessness is drawn around the shoulders, becoming a burden that threatens to destroy any future actions to make the situation better. We throw up our hands in tacit agreement. That is not a legacy I wish to leave for America’s children, regardless of race or ethnicity.
Hope is the reason I am who I am today. Hope creates in us a vision of what can be, even when there is no model to guide us or to define what we sense is possible. Growing up poor, I was told that I had limits on what I could accomplish, so I should just accept that I could go only so far, basically the distance of those family members who came before me.
But, I was assured in my Bible reading that all things were possible, if I believed in God, and that with the strength that comes from faith in Jesus, I could do and be all that I read about in books. I accepted that it would be a difficult journey, but that if did not lose my hope, my expectation, and my desires, that I would see change, although it might take some time.
That hope transformed me from a short-order cook in a pancake restaurant in Tennessee to a professor at a prestigious university in California, a world away from where I started. So, I fear what would happen if young people of any race and ethnicity come to believe that there is no hope for a better future.
There have been a black president, black mayors, black members of Congress, and black cabinet members, even a black female Secretary of State. So progress has been made, and continues to be made. I would argue that the breadth of that progress has fueled the current racial tensions, as many whites, educated and uneducated, feel victimized and cheated out of what they believed to be their rightful claims.
So, yes, we are enduring some racial issues right now that I had hoped were resolved over 50 years ago. The competition for economic viability has those of us below the top 20 percent fighting each other for every dollar. Rather than acknowledge that this is a social class issue, it is easier to coat the differences in stereotypical beliefs, dispraising people, rendering them unworthy of help or hope because of their race and ethnicity.
Yet, let us never give our children the impression that change is impossible, because there are young and old people working together across race and ethnicity to advocate for every child in America. I think that the sense of helplessness and the opioid epidemic in urban and rural America results from the belief that the economic situation is bad and no one cares to make it better.
But even more, we need to teach children to be part of the change they want to see. Remind them that they have to sometimes help themselves. Impress on them to never lose their faith, hope, and a sense of anticipation that a better day is coming.
Gardens aren’t created in a day, but through the efforts of many people, as one plants, another waters, and God gives the increase. Lastly, we need to renew their faith and hope in their Savior, Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.