Change is Gonna Come

Oh my, my, my. What a difference a day makes.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”

Rainbows in New York City. #LoveWins (Instagram Filter) | Credit: Priya Chhaya

Twenty-four hours ago while, on a bus to New York City, I wrote a blog post which I probably will never share beyond my family. Incredibly pessimistic, the post reflected on heritage, hate, and deflection born out of frustration and my own anger at another tragic series of deaths.

Then today happened. Not only did we see that #lovewins, but we heard President Obama, in his eulogy to Reverend Pinckney, proclaim:

For too long we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats now acknowledge — including Gov. Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise — we all have to acknowledge the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride.

For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now removing the flag from this state’s Capitol would not be an act of political correctness, it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers, it would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong…By taking down that flag we express God’s grace.

Now. I know we all live busy lives but watch the entire speech, really (or read it). The clock in front of me is reading 1:38AM (and by the time this post is drafted it’s 3:14AM) and I need to tell people about it – it was that powerful. In sum, the euology was about strength and the grace that lives within all of us. The grace that provides us with the ability to see each others pasts and use that to carve a future that is better for everyone. A sentiment also acknowledged by Justice Kennedy in the majority opinion for Obergefell v. Hodges:

It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

I know that President Obama is a polarizing figure. That those who hate him, who revile him, who fear that the government will take things away from them will never be able to see how today’s events are actually about giving something back.

But it was. Today was about giving us yet another chance to allow this democracy to live up to its name. To recognize the importance of human dignity.

Close-up view of names of individuals buried at the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial in Alexandria, VA. The pins mark those individuals with living descendents. Credit: Priya Chhaya
To see that these events–the Supreme Court decision on marriage and the removal of the Confederate flag–are about restoring humanity to those who are still vocally and forcefully told they are less than.

To acknowledge that hate is bred. It does not appear out of thin air and persists because of systemic poverty, self-superiority, and a need to find someone to blame.

To admit that symbols can have more than one meaning, but that symbols born out of love are always better than symbols born out of hate.

And a recognition that if we can’t understand and strive to solve this at home, it will continue to be difficult for us to recognize how this hate develops abroad. Because while today brought so much comfort here at home, it also brought terror to France, Tunisia, and Kuwait.

Twenty-four hours ago I wrote this “in all of this there is the feeling that one important conversation, years and years in the making, is deflecting one that is also important. Again. Do we move forward or do we just dig in on our sides until we sink? Inch by inch. Step by step.”

But now? I may not be Christian but I do hope for grace in my time amidst the rainbows and the amens. Grace from sea to shining sea. I want to believe that change is gonna come.

What is true in the south is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other; that my liberty depends on you being free, too.

That — that history can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress. It must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, how to break the cycle, a roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. But more importantly, an open heart.

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