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July 8, 2020

A change is gonna come – one day

What you are about to see is a brilliant display of hypocrisy. I’ve spent the last week and a half advising my fellow white-as-Wonder Bread friends to keep social media posts short and simple. Don’t address it. We don’t get it. We CAN’T get it. I’ve watched helplessly as posts of “All lives matter” or “One race – The human race” have buried well-meaning commenters and as I hummed “Taps” to myself I couldn’t help but think… I told you so.
That being said?
Here I go with my big mouth. Talking about “it.”

Once upon a time, I attended a performing arts high school in San Diego County. Whites were the minority by far behind Asian, Latino, and black students. From what I remember? No one cared much. We were all very driven kids, intent on success in whatever was our field of study. We gravitated towards others with similar passion, regardless of the shell that fire was contained in.

My junior year, the spring show was “Into The Woods”. Sara Ramirez, in the role of the witch, had some wicked fast costume changes. My job was helping her tear off a dress in the wings and then get back onstage fully clothed with nothing backwards or inside out or underwear showing. Looking back, it could be seen as a kind of portend to prepare me for motherhood.
But I digress.

It was a Wednesday after classes let out. A dozen or more of us from the show were flopped across couches and benches backstage in the green room (that wasn’t even a little green) listless and bored the way teenagers often are. Not enough time to get home and back before the over and too much time to not feel the clock ticking.
I remember the radio was on and I also remember when the music was interrupted with breaking news.
Live from the Rodney King trial.
We had been following the story, of course we had. Most of our classes lately had become heated debate platforms, racial tension at a slow boil beneath our sneakered feet. Impassioned discussions carried across the lawns at lunch and into the dance and music studios. Before long, racial slurs spun with sounds of soprano and string and lit across campus. May linger there still.

The verdict was in. Three of the four officers charged with police brutality were acquitted and no charge could be agreed upon for the last.
And the world stood still.
Have you ever felt the crackle of electricity in the air? A tension so tight you can almost hear a snap with each exhalation.
That’s what was happening. For just a breath though. Then someone cursed and the crash of the radio hitting the floor woke us from our collective stupor. Some people screamed and threw things, others cried. I sat there.. acutely aware of the color of my skin that, no matter who I had been friends with moments before, set me apart as an enemy.
“But they had proof….”, I kept saying dumbly. “They have them on tape.”
A classmate’s cool, dark as coal eyes met mine and her voice bruised with accusation. “Yeah. I know.”

As an adult, I understand more what the non-white students already knew back then. It wasn’t accusation I heard in her voice. At 16, she was already world-weary. She had seen and felt and tasted hate in a way I never would. Decades of oppression, an unwelcome mantle across her slim shoulders. Centuries of discrimination wrapped up in the nerves of her fingers and her toes. A world where so many didn’t see a problem with individual, systemic, structural, institutional racism. Even denied its very existence.

For almost a week, we watched the world burn. People died. Livelihoods were decimated. Nearly a billion dollars in damage.

How is it that 28 years later..
I’m watching the world burn? People dying. Livelihoods decimated. Inestimable damage.

Another historical encore.

How is it that this is as far as we haven’t come?
How is it that we can view the murder of George Floyd in a constant loop on our phones, computers and television screens and NOT scream and cry and throw things?

I don’t have the answers.
Well. That’s not true.
I have the only answer.

On earth, He was neither white nor black. His book tells us that our outward appearance, our station in life, our age, our gender…doesn’t matter because we are all one in Him.
We are family.

Like so many things on earth that are just ugly, it won’t get all better. It can’t.
It can improve. Dear God, let things improve..
But faith without works is dead.
What are we doing?
The sin behind racism or rage or pride is no different than the sin that fuels envy, lust, or greed.
These will exist as long as people exist.
Because.. people.

I think of the Sam Cooke song that became a sort of unofficial anthem for the Civil Rights Movement 55 years ago. “A change is gonna come.”
It’s certainly time.

Praying for healing for our nation.
Understanding among all races.
For peace,
and for justice.

But God
Just God
Only with God.
A change is gonna come.

-Jennifer

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