We are in it now.

After years of a pandemic, political moments that look like movements, and very personal reflections on our internal struggle, we are forced to face some difficult truths. We can’t escape our wrongs or the wrongs of generations before us. We have passed the moment where we can completely reverse climate change. Western countries cannot claim the high road, as our complicity and hypocrisy are laid bare for the world to see. We witness the cycle of systemic oppression coupled with the normalization of fascist  and authoritarian rhetoric and actions. We have lost the teachings of our ancestors. We are fighting overwhelm because we have begun to understand the depth of the challenges in front of us. Society is fracturing; there’s no going back. The isolation many experienced during the (ongoing) pandemic actually served us, as it allowed for personal time and reflection. Many of us emerged with a newfound understanding of balance in our lives. We can see the collective resolve for change manifesting in the rise of successful labor strikes around the world. Despite the loud patriarchal and racist rhetoric calling for book bans and a “sanitized” teaching of history, many of those efforts (including election bids) have failed. Many individuals have found their voices and stood up against oppression. As individuals, if we can face the difficult truths of our time and authentically show up to take aligned action, we can make a difference.

The necessary withdrawal into ourselves over the past few years served its purpose. We learned what really matters to us and that one person’s actions can supply hope and inspiration. But as individuals, we cannot undertake the society-changing tasks ahead of us. We need one another. How do we harness our voices, actions, and personal growth in service of the collective? How do we face that we have yet to do the work to be in real community with one another? Sure, we know the right words – the jargon and movement phrases. We even know the right actions. Too often, those are surface-level, performative declarations and acts that drain us and our goals. Without an authentic relationship to community, our aspirations will fail under the stress and pressure of the shifting times.

Many of us don’t know how to be in community because the communities we come from privilege the individual over the collective, physical power over discernment, and fairy tales over the truth. Even when we work for faith and justice, we continue to employ the “master's tools," believing that somehow the outcome will be different when the tools are in our hands. Consciously, we want peace, freedom, and justice. We want what Martin Luther King Jr. coined “the Beloved Community.” Yet subconsciously, we know we will ultimately have to give up whatever power we currently have in society. Simply put, many of us are not prepared to give our power up for the collective, especially since there is no guarantee that freedom, justice, and peace “will win.” For many of us, through our individualistic lens, this is like jumping off a cliff, relying on the “beloved community” to catch us when there’s no precedent for long-term success. We are so used to living under the rules and practices of heteropatriarchy and racism that, as much as we rail against them, they are what we know. When we dig deep, we may even find that we hope to keep the benefits we have incurred from these systems. To bring this community to fruition, we must grapple with our own fragility and accept the vulnerability of being truly accountable to our broader community. Our internal work of the past few years must now become an external expression of our values and vision for the future. We cannot sit on the sidelines, looking for someone else to do the heavy lifting of creating new paradigms. This is our work. Our actions impact our community and the future of our society. Together we can usher in a new era where the individual and community are affirmed and cherished. We, together, are the ones we have been waiting for. 

ABOUT Nicole Lee  

Nicole Lee is a diversity, equity and inclusion expert, leadership coach, nationally recognized speaker and strategist who regularly consults with nonprofits, schools, businesses, political and social movements to improve their climate for themselves and all those that they serve.schools, businesses, political and social movements to improve their climate for themselves and all those that they serve.

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