This election cycle was rough, to say the least. And for good reason, many of us are feeling anxious about what lies ahead. To move forward, I think we need to reflect on some of the deeply held beliefs this process unearthed and the implications they have for our work.
Some extremely concerning privilege based values surfaced in this election process. How we choose to move forward and heal as a country has real repercussions for the communities we work in and our ability to effectively meet our missions.
During this election cycle, it seemed to me that personal responsibility as the key driver of success or failure was pitted against oppressive dynamics as if it’s wholly one or the other that determine one’s fate. The framing of the work we do and beliefs about what causes communities and people we serve to struggle matters because they drive public policy choices and resources.
As a mission driven sector focused on maximizing human potential, we know the answer is more complex. We are intimately aware of the intersecting systemic biases at play driving opportunities and success. Much of our work seeks to harness individual determination and resilience, to help people succeed despite the odds; yet the oppressive dynamics facing those we serve are undeniable. We need solutions that appreciate both of these truths and right now it does not seem like we are likely to achieve the policy changes or investments needed to realize the progress we are desperate for any time soon. This is, at best, frustrating.
But I am trying to harness my feelings of anxiety, frustration, fear, and disappointment by thinking about how we as a sector can find our voice and proactively counter the “personal responsibility” narrative which fails to appreciate systemic biases and perpetuates inequity. We engage with people and communities every day; we are well positioned to contribute to a counter narrative that better appreciates the systemic reasons people are struggling and highlights how nonprofits work to counteract the systematic failures that bring so many people to our doors.
At HSC, we will continue to do our part and work to develop the voice of the sector in these areas and create space for collective reflection and thinking on workable solutions. It is critical that together, we also engage in the very difficult work of self-examination to better appreciate how our own actions or inactions contribute to the oppressive systems at play and contribute to the “personal responsibility” narrative. Our failure to take on these challenges will only serve to undermine our collective success.
We look forward to taking an active role in the nation’s healing process and contributing constructively to the dialogue about how to move forward.