Hope vs Understanding

I was listening to an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates this morning, and he was asked about giving hope to people. He essentially rejects the idea of taking on that role. He is a poet, and poets are not expected to offer hope; in fact they often deep dive into the realm of questions, and of pain and suffering. He is a historian and journalist, and they aren’t there to give hope but to write about what happened.

On a similar note, someone asked how we can give hope to our children, to which he rejects accepting any credibility he could have on the matter of working with or teaching children; he is a writer, which means, his experience is in the quiet world and solace of writing. A teacher or activist, on the other hand, works with people, and the most experienced of them are still in a quandary on how to effectively engage, so how would he know? But he did make an attempt to answer this question.

He thinks that kids aren’t looking for hope. They are looking for understanding. They want to understand why they can’t cross to the other side without feeling like they are in danger while the other can go anywhere and feel safe. He looks at hope, not in the way of saying that everything will be okay, but rather, in offering an understanding of what is happening, and how might we derive personal power in that understanding.

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