Recently I sat in on a conversation between two people I respect. One declared empowerment is an individuals choice. We choose how to respond to situations and we can choose to remove ourselves from unacceptable situations.
The other stated empowerment requires us to have support from our community. It needs structures in place so that negative situations are reduced and positive situations are increased.
Both of them are right.
In the moment, I can choose to remove myself from an unpleasant situation. In the future, I can choose to avoid groups that tend to put me into unpleasant situations. But empowerment can't just be about retreating. It needs to make a positive impact in the future. It needs to set the stage for richer, fuller lives.
That's where empowerment requires strucure. It requires support. It requires a community. It takes a lot of people to make the future a better place. It takes a lot of light to drive out shadows.
Empowerment is not as simple as what you do for yourself or what is imposed upon you. It's a complex, nuanced thing. If we want to attract good people regardless of color, gender, or background we're going to need to understand these nuances and balance between empowering ourselves and putting structures in place to support each other.
I'm not saying this will be easy. It's hard to take the right amount of responsibility for the situations we're in. It takes constant practice to forgive and empathize when emotions run hot. It takes work to build communities that back each other up. It's hard to shape a culture of empathy and support.
But damn, it's worth it.