It’s time to rethink the way we view progress

by Charlie Vargas, Staff Writer

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Too often the idea of progress is equated to linearity. As a result, statements like, “It is 2019. How is it that we are still (fill in the blank)?” become frequent occurrences. Comments like these diminish the acknowledgment and the effort it takes for humanity to become, learn and grow.  

Alternatively, we should view progress as a fluid cycle and not something fixed. 

Progress is not merely a checklist, a finish line or an accomplishment that we disregard after hanging it up on our fridge. It is an ongoing effort that requires hard work to uplift and sustain. When progress is not persistent, it becomes digressive and puts us through a revolving door.

Something we must also remember when reframing progress is to process our mistakes. Without this, we cannot move forward. 

Race in America is a prime example of this, as it is one of many issues in our nation that was never handled thoroughly. 

The “end” of racism in the U.S. was first associated with the end of slavery. Fast forward almost 100 years later to the success of the civil rights movement, and it was once again “ending” racism. Then let us look back only 11 years to the election of the first black president Barack Obama. His election was also associated with the pivotal moment that racism was, indeed, over. 

Although these steps were significant, they are not a finish line for the end of racism. History shows that in these three examples, racist actions became more emboldened. In 1865 after slaves were freed, the Klu Klux Klan was established and it again became prominent in terrorizing black communities and activists during the civil rights era in the ‘60s. During the election of Obama – the supposed last step to ending racism – resulted in a racist backlash by the Tea Party, which paved the way for Donald Trump’s base. 

The many people who believed racism was over dismissed those who raised the issue of its existence. It also shows that if we are not having these conversations and fighting these issues head-on, they will only persist. If not today, then tomorrow. In the future this can change. We can start by listening and doing the work internally, and recognizing where we can grow individually and as a society. 

When we find ourselves in a state of reoccurrence, it is essential to stop and reflect on why we are there again. This reflection can be challenging to accept, and with the need for constant effort, it may be off-putting, but we must persist. Part of the problem is that we often throw in the towel once we feel good about the result. 

Although the accomplishment may feel good, the chances are that when we slip back into a state of digression, it will unleash a feeling of despair within ourselves and perhaps those around us. These feelings may derive from a misunderstanding of what led to that moment. To change the preconceived notions of progress, we must begin with ourselves while acknowledging the impact of a consistent effort. It is crucial to remember this on the days where we feel we cannot put our foot forward because we feel drained, and while it’s okay to feel that way, we must persist for change to occur. 

We should also beware of control disguised as progress. The progress that seeks to install a dynamic of power that rules instead of coexisting with the established is not progress — it is a reassurance of those in power to dominate. Progress in the form of a bulldozer that deforests, colonizes and destroys is not progression. It is a process that throughout history has erased whole societies and removed coexistence. Progress would be to learn from each other and work toward a shared vision of a greater society. 

Progress stimulates society when individuals come forward collectively to inspire change. If we individually applied that same energy inward – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually – we would be radically transforming society one person at a time. Our skills, ideas, social norms, discourse and politics would all grow with a culture that is regularly advancing. 

It is time for everyone that has not been putting in the long-overdue work to start, and above all else, keep going. 

Charlie Vargas is a senior studying journalism. Follow him on Twitter @CharlieVargas19.

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