What can I say about “Changes” that hasn’t already been said? I mean everyone from Ed Sheeran to The Catholic Church, loves this song. Maybe Pope Francis should listen to it again and contemplate the themes of social justice, instead of comparing the suffering of Jesus to that of a Cardinal who abused children. But I digress.
Tupac Shakur originally recorded changes in 1992. It was not released until it was remixed and issued on his Greatest Hits album in 1998, two years after Shakur’s death. Since then, it has become one of the late rapper’s most widely recognized song. Did I mention it made a playlist at the Vatican?
We have another song with lines that could easily be ripped from today’s headlines or a Facebook status:
I see no changes wake up in the morning and I ask myself
Is life worth living should I blast myself?
I see no changes all I see is racist faces
Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races
And still I see no changes can’t a brother get a little peace
It’s war on the streets and the war in the Middle East
Feelings of despair, racism and violence in the American streets and abroad. The song also touches on poverty, police brutality against the black community, the prison industrial complex and “the war on drugs.” And then there’s what’s probably become the most talked about line of the song. Pac spits, “And although it seems heaven sent, we ain’t ready, to see a black President.”
White people reacted to the election of former President Barack Obama in a lot of really gross ways. Much has been said about the “conservative backlash.” Everything from the birther movement to tiki torches in Virginia has been framed as the reaction of white people feeling a loss a power. But it wasn’t just conservatives, much of white America thought we had finally arrived. In addition to athlete, rapper or actor, a black man could now be president. Racism was over.
Of course it wasn’t. It’s still not. The penitentiaries are still packed. And they’re still filled with blacks. The prison industrial complex is alive and well in the era of the New Jim Crow. Police still kill unarmed black men, women and children. Before Joe Biden served as Vice President under Obama, he was the chief architect of the United State’s “war on drugs” that terrorized African American Communities. Now he is running for President himself.
But has anything changed? Since 1992? 1998? 2008? Have we reached some previously unknown state of racial reconciliation and reckoning with this county’s racist history? As we have seen in headline after headline the present pandemic is having a devastating and disproportionate impact on the Black community in America. There are of course many contributing factors: redlining, racial wealth gap, massive disparities in education and employment opportunities. The list goes on, but much could be summed up under the umbrella of systemic racism. Maybe we still need to make some changes.
We gotta make a change
It’s time for us as a people to start making some changes.
Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live
And let’s change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do
What we gotta do, to survive.