Often when speaking with those of older generations about what I do, I get a similar reaction: hopelessness. “Young people are so wrapped up in Facebook or texting that they don’t connect with real people!” “The youth are so apathetic.” “Our country, no, our world is going down the pooper when the younger generation takes over!”
I’ll tell you what. This weekend I saw something incredible. At two different times, both at youth leadership conferences, one at HOBY Tennessee and one at HOBY IL North, I stopped, looked around, and realized that there were groups of incredible young people all doing the same thing. They were sitting together, carrying on some of the most intelligent, thought-provoking, and reflective conversations on race, religion, sexual orientation, sexual violence, gender, class, and ability that I have ever seen.
One of the things that I find in the work that I do is that sometimes it can be hard to have hope. When I begin to lose hope, I try to remember something that was told to me at the White Privilege Conference, “Only those who come from incredible privilege have the ability to give up hope.” I can’t give up hope, but sometimes I need more than simply repeating this mantra. I need community.
Truly, I was reminded of this at the HOBY seminars this weekend. When the difficult work toward social justice is done in isolation, it is not only unsustainable, but it is like using popsicle sticks to hold back a flood. No, we must work together, for in community, we find find support, we find love, we find redemption.
It is our responsibility to create communities of support, communities like I find when I work with HOBY students year after year.
After all, the realities of sexual violence can’t be overcome by simply expecting individual men to act accountably. No, we need men to work in concert with our female allies to change the structures of our society that allow for sexual violence.
We cannot overcome racism by simply battling our own internal racism or internalized oppression – though that is undoubtedly vital. No, we must work in concert with those of our own race and with those across difference that allow racism to exist within our structures and our families.
Oppression does not cease by individual action. It is ended when committed individuals choose to stand up, take hands, and work together to realize justice.
In what ways are you working in your community for justice? In what ways are you building community that supports a more just world?