In nature, change is in balance. As the seasons change, trees, birds, and animals adapt. Their species flourish. Human directed change is less harmonious, often in conflict, inequitable, and driven by four primary emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, and anger. While people experience a broader range of emotions, they all derive from these four.
For many people in our society, consumption is a delicate balance between needs and wants. So long as basic needs are met, there is a degree of personal and social stability. Wants, infinite growth, excessive profits, on the other hand, produce an insatiable appetite for more and more consumption. This pushes some to seek financial success at others’ expense, resulting in pay inequity, concentrated wealth, and a ten to one wealth gap between Whites and BIPOC’s (Black, Indigenous People of Color). In such a system, economic and political instability heighten fear, tension, and racism. We hoard things like toilet paper during a pandemic and blame those different from us for society’s failings. This desperation stems from the need for some control. Those who struggle to access healthcare, quality education, housing, a living wage, and care for aging parents experience frustration, desperation, and depression. These struggles are exacerbated for those living with the burden of systemic and incendiary racism.
When large numbers of people do not have equitable access to resources, opportunities, health, and life are at risk, and change is necessary, patience and incremental changes are not solutions for addressing BIPOC and LGBTQ people’s lived realities. Change is welcomed and meaningful when one has a say and control over resources and how they are disseminated. Real change is impossible when those impacted lack decision rights and influence.
The Black Lives Matter movement is an effort to create meaningful and equitable change. It is a messy process, imperfect, and evolving in its methods. And as with any change, some will adapt and thrive, while others will lose hope and move on to other demands. Equitable and consequential change has a cost. It requires courage, sacrifice, and leadership grounded in clear principles. Those benefiting or thriving under the status quo are simply less hungry for equitable change.
When a corporation experiences change, the response must be sanctioned by its leaders. Employees are expected to get on board, make the sacrifice, do the work, and ultimately accept the change or move on. While there are downsides to this approach, the goal is clear — profit and corporate sustainability. Corporate change efforts require deadlines, measures, timelines, and unmistakable progress along the way. Equitable social change requires the same discipline. And while the goal is not profit, there must be sustainability; otherwise, social change efforts are futile. The change will not be practical or long-lasting.
I have been part of large-scale, cross-sector change efforts in both the civic and corporate sectors. The strategists that lead this work understand that consequential, equitable change requires meaningful engagement and representation across the healthcare, industry, education, agriculture, civic, nonprofit, and government sectors. With its moral authority, the Black Lives Matter movement presents us with an opportunity to move beyond quick fixes, platitudes, and symbolism. Change will occur whether we act or not. The only question is, will it be the change we need to build a truly equitable and just society?