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Social Change

  • When you are a member of an out-group, and you challenge others with whom you share this outsider position to examine some aspect of their lives that distorts differences between you, then there can be a great deal of pain.

    • Audre Lorde,
    • in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work ()
  • If I cannot air this pain and alter it, I will surely die of it. That's the beginning of social protest.

    • Audre Lorde,
    • in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work ()
  • The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house.

    • Audre Lorde,
    • essay title (1979), Sister Outsider ()
  • Rage is by no means an automatic reaction to misery and suffering as such; no one reacts with rage to an incurable disease or to an earthquake or, for that matter, to social conditions that seem to be unchangeable. Only where there is reason to suspect that conditions could be changed and are not does rage arise.

  • In childbirth, as in other human endeavors, fashions start with the rich, are then adopted by the aspirant middle class with an assist from the ever-watchful media, and may or may not eventually filter down to the poor.

  • No real social change has ever come about without a revolution.

  • The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being.

  • ... social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself.

  • Characteristically, major social movements are spawned in obscurity at the periphery of public awareness, seem to burst suddenly and dramatically into public view, and eventually fade into the landscape not because they have diminished but because they have become a permanent part of our perceptions and experience.

  • All social change starts with a conversation.

  • Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

    • Margaret Mead,
    • in Nancy C. Lutkehaus, Margaret Mead: The Making of an American Icon ()
  • The keys to any social reform lie in the acceptance of the need for correction and the commitment to finding ways to make that correction.

  • The impulse of humanity toward social progress is like the movement in the currents of a great water system, from myriad sources and under myriad circumstances and conditions, beating onward, ever onward toward its eternity, the Ocean.

    • Anna Julia Cooper,
    • in Charles Lemert and Esme Bhan, eds., The Voice of Anna Julia Cooper ()
  • The ideal society has yet to be built — one which balances nicely collective well-being and individual well-being.

  • Change in a democracy can be brought about quickly or slowly. The speed depends on its people's honesty of mind, their values, their humility and knowledge and insight; and, above all else, on the will to act, once they realize the need for action.

  • Society and personality live in a continuing reciprocal relation with each other. The search for personal change without efforts to change the institutions within which we live and grow will, therefore, be met with only limited reward.

  • ... change generally outruns consciousness, and, for most of us, change in consciousness lags well behind the changing social norms, sometimes even behind changing personal behaviors.

  • If we look long enough and hard enough ... we will begin to see the connections that bind us together, and when we recognize those connections, we will begin to change the world.

  • My whole theory for the improvement of society is based on a belief in the discipline and the education of the individual to self-control and right doing, for the sake of right doing. I have never seen fundamental improvements imposed from the top by ordinances and laws.

  • Just as the development of computer science has necessitated an expanded technical vocabulary, so too do social changes require transformations in traditional language usage.

    • Francine Wattman Frank,
    • in Francine Wattman Frank and Paula A. Treichler, Language, Gender, and Professional Writing ()
  • ... real change can come about only from the margins of power.

  • Movements are not radical. Movements are the American way. A small group of abolitionists writing and speaking eventually led to the end of slavery. A few stirred-up women brought about women's voting. The Populist movement, the Progressive movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the women's movement — the examples go on and on of 'little people' getting together and telling the truth about their lives. They made our government act.

  • Change depends on people knowing the truth. Change depends on people speaking that truth out loud. That's what movements do. Movements educate people to the truth. They pass along information and ideas that many others do not know, and they cause them to ask questions, to challenge their own long-held beliefs. ... Movements are the way ordinary people get more freedom and justice. Movements are how we keep a check on power and those who abuse it.

  • ... individual advances turn into social change when enough of them occur ...

  • Thinking about profound social change, conservatives always expect disaster, while revolutionaries confidently anticipate utopia. Both are wrong.

  • ... women's entry into the public sphere can be seen not merely as the result of contemporary economic pressures, the high rate of divorce, or the success of the feminist movement, but rather as a profound evolutionary response to a pervasive cultural crisis. Feminine principles are entering the public realm because we can no longer afford to restrict them to the private domestic sphere, nor allow a public culture obsessed with Warrior values to control human destiny if we are to survive.

  • Every strategy for real social change — land reform, education, public health, the equitable distribution of natural resources ... — has been cleverly, cunningly, and consistently scuttled and rendered ineffectual by those castes and that class of people which has a stranglehold on the political process.

  • [On social change:] What I say is that if one country is annexed by another, its nationality is not changed overnight. Social processes are often very, very slow.

  • Social movements are frequently characterized by gaps between the lives of the theorists who lead the movements and those of the followers who try to practice the theorists' ideas.

  • Leaders are indispensable, but to produce a major social change many ordinary people must also be involved.

    • Anne Firor Scott,
    • "The 'New Woman' in the New South," South Atlantic Quarterly ()
  • When a social order is in revolution half the world is necessarily part of the new day and half of the old.

  • ... all reform movements are slow in their beginnings. They are like the avalanche, which creeps on so gently at first, that its onward course is almost imperceptible, but gathering strength and velocity as it proceeds, it rushes on, bearing before it all that men have deemed most stable and immovable.

  • By changing ourselves, we are doing the only thing we can do to change the world. To say that it is not enough is a lack of will, a lack of faith. It must be enough, for it is everything.

  • Social change rarely comes about through the efforts of the disenfranchised. The middle class creates social revolutions.

  • You had to decide: Am I going to change the world, or am I going to change me? Or maybe change the world a little bit, just by changing me? If I can get ahead, doesn't that help my people?

    • Sadie Delany,
    • in Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth, Having Our Say ()
  • It is the swimmer who first leaps into the frozen stream who is cut sharpest by the ice; those who follow him find it broken, and the last find it gone. It is the men or women who first tread down the path which the bulk of humanity will ultimately follow, who must find themselves at last in solitudes where the silence is deadly.

  • ... institutions ... are almost always in some sense utopia projects, attempts to intervene in the ways of the world. Schools, hospitals, orphanages, reformatories of all kinds, begin with ideas that an organization could make things better, redress some of the damage we do to each other. And usually, whether they succeed in the original aim or not, the institutions end up doing damage of their own, because power corrupts and visions don't work in practice and we are all hopeful but fallen beings.