ST. LOUIS: IF A CHANGE GONE COME…
By: Dr. Christi Griffin is the Founder and President of The Ethics Project www.TheEthicsProject.org
Over the last several months, there have been more meetings in the St. Louis Metropolitan area than any one person could possibly navigate. Those who understand that change will never come without fervent and devoted effort wore themselves ragged running from one well intended meeting to another. Many aspects of our political system, police departments, courts, economy and criminal justice system have been examined, discussed, dissected and left with their ugliness spilled out for the world to see. Finally, the community has come together in a unified effort to bring about long awaited change.
Change is needed. The festering wounds of racism, intimidation, brutality, segregation, denial, exploitation and discrimination have reached a point where amputation, surgery and years of rehabilitation are required. The cancerous hatred that decades of complacency allowed to spread through every part of our political, educational and economic systems has reached its pinnacle and metastasized in the brain. The system as it currently exists simply can’t be given a pill and sent back on its way. The life support of lies and stolen gain need to be disconnected. Failing to do so only delays the inevitable.
Not since the days of Montgomery, Selma, Birmingham and Memphis have we seen such concerted effort to wrangle justice from the jaws of hate. “Power concedes nothing without demand” and that truth combined with sheer oblivion has created a wall of resistance. To date, power has conceded little. In light of that reality, in light of the historical proof that racism and oppression will merely tighten its grips, the call for change must not relent. The protest should not only persist but increase in number. The economic demands that go unheard when delivered merely by the shouts of brave and intolerant protesters must be augmented by acts of empowerment that that rattle the cage. If the polite, albeit angry demands for fairness and justice go unmet, the volume must be turned up. If protests yield only menial gains, it’s time to speak a language that’s understood. If economic loss is the only thing that garners attention, then economic loss it must be. With hold your money and make sure others do as well. Be intentional in who you support and who can support others.
But we can’t expect change from those who hold the power if change we’re
not willing to give. If change is going to come, we have to acknowledge our complicity in the rouse. Complicity in the current state of affairs if only by our neglect. Too many of us drink the Kool Aide in every flavor it’s served, far too willing to accept free lunches, free cell phones, free rent and free advice. We’ve called the man “honky”, racist and all but a child of God but take every hand out that in turn makes him rich. We’ve let them take the tax dollars of those diligent enough to secure a good job and convert them to riches for the rich. We let the music the produce shape the minds of our beloved and television to shape the very view we have of ourselves. We get mad because “whitey” hates us reserving that right for ourselves. Self-hate, self-harm, self-destruction.
We can’t expect those imbued with privilege to walk away from its spoils if we who want to share in their benefits don’t want to head their way. We can’t be the recipients of economic gain if our hands are clutching the benefits of lack. We can’t demand jobs but cling to the bed when we get them. We can’t expect “entitlements” and expect enough to buy weave. We can’t accept public housing and park a Cadillac outside. We’ve had a love affair with poverty and were it like a crown. It garners sympathy, earns us rights and paves a dangerous path. It leaves open a narrow door through which only those willing to release its comforts can walk. It’s the very tool the oppressor uses to not only keep us down but to raise themselves up. It’s the ticket to prison and a lifetime denied.
Wealth comes at a price. If means gratification delayed; it means getting scraped and bruised, it means putting down the gun and picking up the pace. It requires walking away from home boy and spending nights alone. Wealth mean giving up things you want to secure the things you need. It means setting your eye on lofting goals and sacrificing to get there.
Success means following the path of those who made it rather than the rap that racism wrote. It means having children you can afford and spouses you can believe. Elevating the masses means elevating our thoughts and carving a new path. If we’re going to denounce a police department who would give out 300 tickets to one person, we have to denounce the person who would get them. We can’t expect the system to change if we don’t. We can’t expect to spew profanity and wonder why hate spews back. We can’t sag day and night and think someone will offer a job. You either want to work or you want to sag. If you want to fit into opportunity you have to make opportunity fit.
We can’t expect the Powers that Be to give up the comforts they gained at our expense if we’re not willing to surrender some comforts ourselves. Despite the obstacles set up at every turn, choices must be made to defeat them. If one Black person made it, we all can make it. But it takes unity and pride. It takes those who have made it to realize the help they received. It means reaching out with the compassion and tenacity that was a gift to us. It means reaching out and accepting the hand up. If we want to demand change, then change we must. And the first person we should look to is ourselves.