4 Ways People of Color Can Stay Hopeful in Trying Times

A new paper offers a path to radical hope in the face of uphill social change.

Posted Jun 30, 2020

For People of Color (POC), it has been trying times since President Trump was elected. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, hate crimes increased in 2017 by 17% (7,175 instances), and 60% of these were racially motivated. This is in addition to the rollback in civil rights under his tenure. Since the death of George Floyd Jr., however, it seems that systemic change may be on the horizon — or is it? Not surprisingly, the uphill battle of creating change can be difficult to bear.

So, how can POC stay hopeful in the face of sociopolitical challenges?

This inquiry was the focus of a new paper led by psychologist Della Mosley of the University of Florida. More specifically, she and her collaborators developed a culturally sensitive framework of radical hope to support POC in their fight for systemic change.

Mosley and her colleagues began by drawing on the construct of hope, which has a long tradition within academic psychology. It is understood as an emotion, reflecting an individual’s desire to be in a different circumstance in the future. But it is also conceived of as a cognitive coping process, in which a person holds the belief that their actions can influence outcomes.

The team, however, maintains that radical hope departs with Western and traditional concepts in its emphasis not on the individual but on the collective, and its “commitment and courage” to collective flourishing. And the reason it is radical is because this version of hope embodies the view that fundamental change is necessary to eradicate social ills.

Radical hope rests on the pillars of faith and agency. In this context, faith refers to the belief that positive change for the collective is possible, in spite of the roadblocks that POC often confront. And agency is the belief that POC can take action to improve wellness at both the individual and collective levels.

With faith and agency upholding the construct of radical hope, Mosley and her collaborators identified four pathways to achieving it:

Understanding the history of oppression and resistance. This pathway involves looking to the past to envision a better collective future. To this end, Mosley and her team aver, it is important to understand the “intersecting forms of oppression” that POC from different groups have experienced, such as the seizure of land, genocide, enslavement, voter suppression, and the criminalization of immigrants to name a few, and how they have resisted and overcome them. Looking at the past critically helps to contextualize current inequities.

Embracing ancestral pride. This pathway refers to having a positive connection to the social actions, strengths, and contributions of one’s ancestors. According to research, utilizing this pathway can reduce anxiety in children, as well as increase academic achievement and self-esteem. Studies also show that receiving positive racial-ethnic pride messages from parents buffers children from the negative effects of racial discrimination.

Envisioning possibilities for psychological wellness. This pathway speaks to the challenge of at once holding realistic goals for oneself and radical possibilities for collective sociopolitical change in the future. Keeping collective memory in mind gives POC the opportunity to recall and engage with actual instances of sociopolitical change that were once thought of as unattainable (e.g., ending apartheid).

Creating meaning and purpose. This pathway recognizes that hope operates at an individual level, yet with a concern for the collective. Thus, meaning and purpose is an “inner resource” on which individuals draw to enact goal-oriented social change. Believing in one’s worthiness and right for safety and support, the authors assert, POC can develop meaning and purpose with social justice as its wellspring.

References

Mosley DV, Neville HA, Chavez-Dueñas NY, Adames HY, Lewis JA, French BH.  Radical hope in revolting times: Proposing a culturally relevant psychological framework. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 2020, 14:1–12. doi: 10.1111/spc3.12512