But for individuals like Bethann Hardison, we would be a lot worse off. While the intractable persistence of  racism engenders cancerous cynicism and bitterness, pathological individualism and debilitating insularity, and, yes, self-hate in many, there are those who persist in little, seemingly insignificant steps that do matter, that are impactful, that are largely self-less, and that are just about doing the right thing.

There intense and noble actions seem ill-equipped to win the broader struggle, or even prevail permanently, lasting as long as the hyper-passionate, hyper-articulate individual — how we often we have read of some pioneer, some prior movement that has ultimately left the world little different, except for the few that were touched in their time. But those few lives do matter, and there was, although unfulfilled, a singular moment of revolutionary change. Against all odds, they tried, refusing, like the rest of us, to wallow in the futility of it all. It is the power of faith; it is the strength of leadership; it is the audacity of hope.

So, thanks, Ms. Hardsion. And to those like you.

Evan Sung for The New York Times

Evan Sung for The New York Times

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