Professor John Long, Retired
“A change is gonna come” to Lansing, and it is on our doorsteps and across the world.
Many of you may be familiar with the first five words, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a song written and sung by the late recording artist Sam Cook. He wrote it as a protest song to support the Civil Rights Movement and his personal anguish in the mid 1960s. One of the stanzas in the song:
“I go to the movie and I go downtown
Someone keep tellin’ me, Don’t hang around…
But I know a change is coming, oh yes it will…”
Metaphorically, today there are white people still telling us African Americans, “Don’t hang around.” Many cannot obtain the jobs equal to their educational level. In 2018, approximately 33% of African American adults aged 25 to 29 had at least a two-year college degree, compared to 44% White Americans, according to the National Student Clearing House. Are we treated with the same respect as our white brothers?
Prior to the rally in Lan-Oak Park I noticed on numerous occasions — on Ridge Road and sometimes on 178th street — two or three high school students, black, brown, and white, holding up signs saying, “Black Lives Matter.” Metaphorically, they were alone blowing in the winds like tall grass, cars passing by with no expression. I admired them. I would honk my horn and give them the black power sign of the sixties.
When the Village sent a robo call to the residents informing us that there would be a protest rally, I made up my mind to attend. There, I was surprised to hear white people say that Black lives matter. The last time that I heard that sincerity was in 1965 when the late President Lyndon Johnson in his State of the Union speech to the Congress said that black lives matter (even though we were referred as Negroes in those days). His words were: “But a century has passed, more than a hundred years since the Negro was freed. And he is not fully free tonight. It was more than a hundred years ago that Abraham Lincoln, a great President of another party, signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but emancipation is a proclamation and not a fact. A century has passed, more than a hundred years since equality was promised. And yet the Negro is not equal.” One can add, 55 years later, African Americans are still treated unequally.
I was extremely impressed at the rally. I found that it was organized and the brainchild of three high school students from Thornton Fractional South High School. I was very worried because the gains of African Americans have been erased by white privilege and tribalism. These young white students get it. It is time for the adults to get on board. A change has come, and it is time to get on board. I urge all leaders in the village and the school system to begin to evaluate if they are in the equality queue.
Professor John Long, Retired
University of Illinois at Chicago
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