Solving Social Issues: What Bayard Rustin Can Teach Us About Race Relations

Solving Social Issues: What Bayard Rustin Can Teach Us About Race Relations

Is Equality As Invaluable As Equity?

State of the Re:Union

“We need in every bay and community a group of angelic troublemakers.”

Bayard Rustin

Appropriately enough, Black History Month has ushered in with some major changes in the business of "modern equality." For those of you who have been following the uproar surrounding the Academy Awards for it's lack of racial inclusion, there may be some level of reconciliation in the swift, progressive changes that were made accommodations to improve the Academy's representation of people of color.

Equality Versus Equity

To the lazy eye, these accommodations were an equal and appropriate step to the level of progression I would like to think we all want to see in the modern world. With a truly inclusive space, one should feel a sense of belonging on any point on the broad spectrum that is equality. In a world where the acceptance of an esteemed or "superior" group is an important factor in quality of life, just how sustainable are solutions to achieve "equality?"

While giving actors an opportunity to be represented more appropriately does offer some level of immediate gratification, pursuing equality without achieving equity proves to be counterproductive in eradicating the systemic framework that is holding the Black community back from its' potential excellence.

The Revolutionary Rebel

Born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) was a revolutionary change agent and an impactful thought leader with a rich career of service and colorful background in social movement. The late Rustin was an activist who addressed change the best way he knew how, through action. As a man of agency, he served as an advisor to the late-Martin Luther King Jr. Ph.D. Additionally, Rustin played a role as a key figure in movements such as the March on Washington in 1963, The Civil Rights Act and the New York State's Gay Rights Bill, with his speech "The New Niggers are Gays."

The Simplest Solution

As a progressive leader grounded in engineering social solutions with non-violent tactics, Rustin was truly ahead of his time, appropriately receiving the posthumous Medal of Freedom honor in 2013. When analyzing Rustin's role in social progression, his philosophy begins to unravel a deeper understanding of what sustaining equitable treatment for people of color looks like.

"We can either spend the rest of this century denouncing the people as racist and being denounced by them in return. Or we can attack the root causes of the fear... We can erradicate white fear and black rage by satisfying the real needs of all people. Let us build."
Bayard Rustin in his speech, Conflict or Coalition

Rustin was revolutionary in his belief of achieving progression by means of releasing individual emotion and engaging in cooperative contribution. With these concepts in mind, organizations can address the rising demand in diverse and inclusive environments to satisfy the social needs of people in the modern world. I am interested to see how Rustin's career will continue to inspire these changes and I challenge organizations to use these ideas to improve practice and make progress in neo-race relations.

Rest In Peace, Bayard Rustin

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