Thinking of racial justice as a journey helps us focus on each step without growing discouraged when we don’t make the progress we desire. The destination is racial equity and justice for people of every racial and ethnic background. The endpoint is harmony, where unity in the midst of diversity prevails. But viewing racial justice as a journey encourages us to think about fighting racism as an ongoing series of steps rather than a final point of completion. Instead of defining success by the results we achieve, we should define it by the actions we take. The effectiveness of our actions is not solely determined by their outcomes but also by the fact that we are taking steps forward and moving in the right direction.
As we begin to treat each other with more love and empathy, it will not only change the world around us; it will also change us. As I have taken steps to promote racial justice, I have developed more endurance, discovered untapped wells of creativity, and experienced more joy than I ever expected. The journey of racial justice is itself transformative.
On the journey toward racial justice, not all of us have the same starting point, nor are we all moving at the same speed. Black people and people of color have been fighting racism our whole lives. We have thought about racism, prayed about it, cried about it, written about it, marched against it, and resisted it as the very means of our survival. This is not new to us. At the same time, we still have more to learn, and we can always get better at pursuing justice. For some white people, this may be a brand-new discussion. Perhaps you are just starting the journey, and even baby steps are accompanied by the risk of stumbling and falling. But you learn how to walk one step at a time through persistent, informed practice.
No matter how far along you are, thinking of racial justice as a journey helps us move beyond the binary of racist and not racist. In reality, everyone may act in ways that support racism at times. People of color who have internalized racist tropes may act in prejudiced ways toward white people or toward other racial and ethnic minorities. White people may support the racist status quo by choosing comfort and privilege over the confrontation and change that racial justice always requires. At times, even the most closed-minded person may stumble into words or actions that promote equity. With the humility of knowing that everyone’s quest is different, our challenge is to get on and stay on the journey of racial justice.
Watch the video study of Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromise here and watch a trailer for his new book, How to Fight Racism below.