Someone recently asked if I am optimistic that we can redeem the soul of America (as it relates to the racial construct).
I paused before giving my answer: “No. I am not optimistic, but I am hopeful.”
Then, I found myself processing the difference. What I discovered is what I always recognize during these kinds of self-reflection: the difference is in the definition.
I subscribe to the teaching of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who says “optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better.”
I like the rabbi’s view of hope as an active virtue. I believe that, together, we can create a structure that is beneficial to all Americans; close the “value gap” (which Eddie Glaude Jr. describes as the idea that white people are more valuable than Black people); and find a better way forward.
I can’t be optimistic at this point because I realize that there are people who are invested in preserving the current systemic structure, in sustaining the value gap, and maintaining the status quo.
Are you optimistic or hopeful?