Changes: Or The Lack Thereof

Cops give a damn about a negro
Pull the trigger, kill a n——, he’s a hero
Give the crack to the kids, who the hell cares?
One less hungry mouth on the welfare
First ship ’em dope and let ’em deal to brothers
Give ’em guns, step back, watch ’em kill each other

Tupac Shakur, “Changes,” 1998

Twenty-five years after the release of Tupac Shakur’s “Changes” and we find ourselves in the same place. The same story told over and over and over again, and still we miss the lesson. Public school, parental and American religious rhetoric, and political discourse insisted racism died with the abolition of slavery in 1865 and the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

The fault of racism had been laid at the feet of very distant relatives—to whom none of us were related because our families would never be involved in such a thing—and yet the truth is it was our parents and grandparents and great grandparents perpetuating an evil ideology.

Many millennials have cut off older family members, including parents, as a result of their toxicity. These cut off family members often refused to change, own their faults, and react violently to culpability and consequence. Is it then a wonder that it is largely their generation and their successfully groomed offspring who rail against the social conversation of bigotry and stand in the way of progress meant to create a more humane and equitable world?

We weren’t the only ones to suffer their toxicity.

My genetic provider used to say that America wasn’t ready for a Black or woman president. As I have learned over the last thirty years, the accusations of these toxic people are usually confessions. Despite his feigned sympathy for such racial disparity, it was he—and those like him—who were not ready for a Black or woman president. The proof of such assessment lies in the formation of the Tea Party, the precursor to the far-right MAGA movement that would ultimately take over the Republican party today.

Tupac called it, we need real changes, and we can no longer wait for our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents to die out. They promised to prepare us the future to which we were heirs. They called us, their children, the future—yet they’ve held that future beyond reach. They took an America at its greatest economic and social potential and destroyed it in the name of neoliberalism.

“Make America Great Again,” what does this mean? The generations leading this war cry were entrenched in segregation, unfettered lynchings, and the reinforcement of systemic bias that now hangs from our necks like millstones.

We cannot move forward if we insist the answer lies in the past. I’m sorry Revolutionary and Confederate cosplayer, the answer isn’t embedded in our whitewashed tombs.

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