We are the largest experiment in multiethnic democracy the world has ever seen — just approaching 250 years old. We’re 150 years removed from a civil war whose wounds still bleed. The Civil Rights Act — banning discrimination in professional and public life — was passed 54 years ago. Great public movements, many that have required protest and civil disobedience, have resulted in progressive legislation that has defined and made us a better nation.
But laws aren’t always successful in changing attitudes and beliefs of individuals. They often result in retrenchment of the very ideas they aim to codify out of society.
Individuals and attitudes change as a result of real human interaction. When we get to know our neighbor whose culture is different than ours. When our kids play on the same soccer team. When we take a moment to listen to our colleagues who come from different backgrounds. When we get fresh air outside of our echo chambers.
Elections, policy, and legislation are still critical, but we can’t stop there. We need to do the hard work every day, in our own hearts and minds, and in our daily interactions with others. If we want a truly inclusive, progressive nation, it’s much more than politics. It’s the hard work of engaging people, day in and day out, to create opportunities for understanding.