The Bridges We’re Building
The United States has yet to live up to its foundational ideals of a union where “all [people] are created equal,” and deserving of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Today, we find ourselves polarized along so many different axes—race, politics, gender—that many people have retreated to the extremes. We look at those different from us not just as others, but sometimes as enemies.
We can no longer afford to waste time debating how we got here. We must look forward to what we do about it. How do we make amends with those who’ve been harmed, build bridges with those different from us, and heal a deeply wounded nation? As every marriage counselor knows, an apology isn’t enough. How do we build trust and goodwill when serious harm has been done? Can we rebuild burned bridges?
In this issue of YES! Magazine, we focus on those doing that work.
Ferguson, Missouri, a battleground in the modern civil rights movement, is the scene of a convening about reparations for slavery and the oppression Black people have endured post-emancipation. Reparations is not just about money, but the overall healing that’s needed in Black communities and the work that needs to be done, even among well-meaning White people—who too often want to avoid the discomfort of accepting hard truths and skip ahead to feel-good reconciliation.
As this issue goes to press, we’re in the midst of a presidential impeachment inquiry, and our two political parties have never been more divided, disagreeing even on basic, provable facts. But a group called Better Angels is gathering people on opposite sides to talk and debate. It may not change our views, but it could change how we view each other.
In Iowa, farmers are confronting the divisive issue of climate change together. By focusing less on what happened and more on what they need to do, they’re finding common cause in confronting the most pressing existential threat of the 21st century.
In Georgia, a former violent White supremacist is bridging one of the widest gaps of all, leading other radical extremists out of the movement and back to civil society.
We also explore the role men can play in the era of #MeToo to create a nontoxic form of masculinity. And we look at a literal bridge between two South African communities, one rich and White, the other poor and Black, which became its own metaphor for the unfulfilled promises of a post-apartheid nation.
Healing schisms is good, but it’s not easy. These stories show how we’re finding our way—and even if it’s done one person at a time, it is possible to bridge those divides.
Zenobia Jeffries Warfield is a senior editor at YES! She covers racial justice.
Chris Winters is a senior editor at YES! He covers economics and politics.