We get to decide how we want to be in the world
Our internal and external world is shaped by the cumulative impact of our daily choices. Whether we achieve a socially just world hinges upon every citizen’s daily decisions. It depends upon how we use our power in any given moment. We always have power and choice. It’s up to us to decide if we want to use them.
Every day you get to choose to use your power to work towards a socially just world or stifle the development of it.
What is Power?
Power comes from within and you unleash it two ways, internally and externally. Internal power represents how you use your mindset, emotions, and behaviors in any given moment. You can use internal power in trust yourself to take an action, which is the greatest act of love. Or you can use it to doubt yourself by allowing fear to keep you living below your full potential. Externally, we can give our power to others by granting someone formal authority to act on our behalf to perform a service (for example, the power given to elected officials, CEOs, movement leaders, etc). Everyone has power because we always have a choice for how to deploy ourself. You activate internal power with your daily choices. Advancing social change requires using a combination of internal and external power.
Truth is, social change only occurs when we use our individual choices to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. We bend a society towards the moral arc of the universe when we create a collective of individuals using their power and choice for social justice. That collective becomes the Beloved Community used to push systemic change. A system changes when a group of people decide to use their collective power to force gatekeepers to create processes of fair and just treatment so all stakeholders (regardless of their identity) can benefit from the resources. We saw this happening when activists successfully got school districts to redirect police funding towards restorative justice and counseling programs. Culture changes when people come together to use their personal choices and power to resist racist norms that dishonor identity groups. Individual choices to create social movements led the way to remove Native American mascots and Frito Bandito.
Simply put, we can’t move forward with changing our society until folks make the personal choice to do better in their individual interactions. In fact it is the sum power of seeing one’s ability and power to make change at the individual level that sparks the courage and bravery to go after large-scale systemic change. We have to stop looking for someone else to give us the power to make change and do it ourselves. Social justice starts with you being more intentional in your daily interactions. We start by asking:
How can I use my power and choice to ensure fair and just treatment during my interactions with others?
This gut check can slow you down to be more thoughtful about the equity impact (fairness and justice) of your interactions with others. As always, I leave you with my 4-step consciousness-raising process to help you integrate intentional power and choice into your daily interactions.
Choice: Ask how do I want to use my power, to treat people fair and just or to harm them with discriminatory actions?
Presence: Asking the question slows you down to reflect, how am I currently using my power?
Self-Awareness: You can go deeper to ask, are my thoughts, emotions, and behaviors advancing or stifling social justice?
Intentionality: Ask, how can I use this interaction to contribute to our global goal of a socially just world? Choose the best course of action that promotes fair and just treatment.