Nonconformists are key to regenerating cities

Home / African American Political Leadership / Nonconformists are key to regenerating cities

Nonconformists are key to regenerating cities

One of the most important components needed in regenerating a city lie in the emergence of nonconformists that actively engage in exploring strategies beyond the norm to mitigate social and economic challenges within our communities.

Nonconformists are individuals that do not accept the traditional methods of doing things. They instead pursue alternative paths that are against the grain of well-established community cultural norms. Why are nonconformist citizens needed? They are needed to build a sense of urgency to combat the forces of complacency and conformity which can retard a community’s progress toward dealing with pressing social and economic challenges.

Here is where this observation gets complicated. Conformity is dangerous because it means following individuals not because you believe in their ideas. It’s done so because you want to fit in with the social and economic norms within the community or organizations you are associated with. The end result is fear of standing out and rocking the boat so you go along to get along..

It’s safe to say that conformity will get a community the same thing over and over.  In short creativity is stifled and things never really change (poverty, crime, poor education, inequality, poor services, etc.) because too often we simple fall in line with the way things have always been done.

More importantly and further troublesome is the fact the pressure to conform when you have no community strength or are caught in the middle where you are afraid to take risks make the ascendance of nonconformity challenging if not impossible.

To elaborate, if you are at the bottom of a comimunity power structure you have nothing to lose by speaking out and offering creative ideas to address pressing community challenges. You have nowhere to fall because you are already at the bottom. However, given the unorganized nature of powerless citizens combined with life challenges and a limited resource base, the likelihood that their issues will be addressed is meniscal at best.

If you are at the top in the community power structure you have a much higher degree of community latitude having earned the right to think a bit differently based on your success achieved within the community. In other words, at this level individuals earn a credit where fellow citizens will give the benefit of the doubt or tolerate unusual or disconnected thinking simply based on the position(s) they obtained within the community.

We tend to run into trouble here in that at this level we tend to assume because an individual has reached a certain level within the social, economic and political level within the community that they have the desire, capacity and understanding to address many of the challenges confronting the community when in fact it may be the opposite.

In this role the individual does not have much to risk given the level social and economic status they have achieved within the community and the credit provided to them by fellow citizens which in the final analysis sets the basis for conformity and complacency in the process.

If you are a citizen in the middle socially and economically it hurts a great deal to take a risk because while you are not at the top of the community’s power structure you have worked hard to maintain and climb to the level you have achieved both in the community and your field of work. And as a result tend to focus on all the reasons new ideas and creativity will fail instead of looking at its potential to mitigate pressing community problems for fear of losing the position you have obtain in not conforming to the way things have always been done.

Here is the challenge we face, if the lower community segment where the need is significantly greater in terms of housing, jobs, inequality, poverty etc., and does not have the organization and power to enact change and the middle segment is risk adverse, what path forward do we have to combat the forces of complacency and conformity which limits our ability to creatively deal with systemic social and economic challenges?

I am not sure what the answer is to this challenge but if we are serious about dealing with the growing social and economic challenges facing our communities we need to begin to explore the value of nonconformist in our community and creating environments where their perspective and contribution is valued.

Dr. Eric Anthony Johnson

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt