Fifty-three years since the Civil Rights movement ended, and not much has changed—but “that’s just the way it is,” right?
This month during our Academy writer’s meeting at Elephant Journal, we discussed sharing essential topics like climate change and racism and some of the other popular topics right now.
Later that day, I looked for music to use in my yoga class.
I went down a little rabbit hole and came back upon “Changes” by Tupac Shakur.
I’m a child of the 90s, and I remember this song’s release. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I liked the beat, but the lyrics didn’t apply to my life.
In Colorado Springs, I didn’t grow up with much diversity, and gangs and drugs were what I heard about in my D.A.R.E classes. This isn’t to say that there was no diversity here; I just didn’t get to experience it much.
After experiencing life over the last 20 years since the song’s release, I have a different perspective on the song and the world.
I’m more of a thinker than a feeler, so this song really hit me with everything that happened this past year. I began to realize that despite the name of the song being “Changes,” Tupac pointed out that not much had changed when the song was written.
Comparing these 13 quotes from the song—nearly 30 years after the release—to today’s events proves his point:
Hope & Hate
“I see no changes, wake up in the morning, and I ask myself
Is life worth living, should I blast myself?”
There’s a lot of hate thrown around. Social media has made it worse than the news ever would.
News every day about someone of color harmed or murdered. Sometimes, I need a break to compose myself, to start the next day for the battles ahead. I realize that what I experience is nothing compared to what people of color experience, so I can only think about what it would be like to be in their shoes.
“I’m tired of bein’ poor, and even worse, I’m Black.
My stomach hurts, so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch.”
Systemic racism has, unfortunately, placed people of color in dire situations.
What’s worse is that COVID-19 has impaired more people of color than anyone else. They are more likely to have low-wage jobs such as retail, fast food, and hospitality. The pandemic forced many of these industries to close, resulting in more people being unemployed. Sadly, people of color were usually the first to be laid off and will be the last to be hired.
People of color are more often disregarded and disrespected when visiting a doctor for COVID-19 and other diseases. “Disparities still exist across health conditions when comparing African Americans and Whites, including maternal mortality, infant mortality, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other health issues.”
This has led to more COVID-19 deaths in the minority populations compared to the White population.
“Cops give a damn about a negro
Pull the trigger, kill a n*gga, he’s a hero.”
This past year we’ve seen this hasn’t changed much, but the wheels are starting to roll.
The court found Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd. Yet we have much work to do. The other officers involved have their trials later this year.
Many more people of color murdered by police still need their justice.
“We gotta start makin’ changes
Learn to see me as a brother instead of two distant strangers.”
Usually, my ask is for people to take a step back from the name-calling and give a little love a chance.
After all, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. We can demand justice and still be kind to one another. We can accept that we don’t see eye-to-eye all the time; perhaps that’s because someone stole an eye from us.
For us White people to truly make a change, we need to work together. Stop the fighting. Start sharing more voices from people of color. Defer to them in what they want to see changed instead of assuming.
“I’d love to go back to when we played as kids
But things changed, and that’s the way it is.”
There are times when I want to time travel back to my youth when I thought life was easier.
In reality, it was that I was ignorant and too young to understand the significant issues. When “just say no” was the hardest thing I had to do. I was one of those people raised to not see color. I’m sure my parents had good intentions, but I now see why that can be just as bad as being racist.
Now I’m faced with the difficulties of knowing the evil that’s out there and often feeling powerless to make lasting change.
I’m one voice in a sea of voices. I often feel like no one listens to me, so why bother? But then I realize that even if I change one person’s mind about something, it could have a ripple effect. You never know what that ripple effect will do.
“I see no changes. All I see is racist faces
Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races.”
Here we are again, people yelling at each other about how each side is wrong.
Life is hard, and people try to make it easier by blaming each other. How about we look at ourselves a little more and see what we can do to make some changes?
Yes, we White people can call out racists, but we can also have caring discussions to find out why someone is racist in the first place in order to change their minds.
“And although it seems heaven-sent
We ain’t ready to see a Black President.”
We did get to see a Black president, but were we ready?
If so, we wouldn’t have experienced the following president in office—an old, rich, white man who opened the floodgates for racism and misogyny once more.
Maybe this is like the pendulum swinging from one extreme to the next, only to eventually stop in the middle. That middle can’t come soon enough, in my opinion.
“It ain’t a secret, don’t conceal the fact.
The penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with Blacks.”
It still boggles my mind that the justice system persecutes people of color more for the same crimes as people without color.
“Black male offenders received sentences on average 19.1 percent longer than similarly situated White male offenders during the Post-Report period (fiscal years 2012-2016), as they had for the prior four periods studied.”
“But some things will never change.
Try to show another way, but you stayin’ in the dope game
Now tell me, what’s a mother to do?
Bein’ real don’t appeal to the brother in you.”
In a system that forces people of color down, instead of lifting them up, it’s no wonder that some prefer to accept what people think of them rather than fight against those beliefs.
Incessant fighting is exhausting. At some point, this system breaks their will, so folks stay with the people and places they know. This can lead down the road of crime as folks see no other option.
“You gotta operate the easy way.
(I made a G today) But you made it in a sleazy way.
Sellin’ crack to the kid (I gotta get paid).
Well, hey, well, that’s the way it is.”
I can understand where some people might turn to crime as a way to survive.
For some reason, it seems to be okay for a White dad to kill a man hurting his little girl but not okay for a Black mom to steal food so her kids can eat. Laboring at three part-time jobs to make a few bucks, only to have one emergency come up that sends them back to square one or worse.
“And still I see no changes, can’t a brother get a little peace?
There’s war in the streets and war in the Middle East
Instead of war on poverty, they got a war on drugs
So the police can bother me.”
The war on drugs was never about drugs. It was a way to punish people of color. “Although Black communities aren’t more likely to use or sell drugs, they are much more likely to be arrested and incarcerated for drug offenses.”
You can see the images on Vox for a more visual representation.
“They get jealous when they see ya, with ya mobile phone.”
But mobile phones are a necessity these days.
It’s one of the only ways some people can access the internet and apply for jobs. Most companies don’t offer paper applications anymore. There are cheap ways to get them, too. Used and refurbished are more affordable than brand new.
Don’t expect someone on welfare not to have one. That’s setting them up for failure.
Stop expecting people on welfare to look and act like they are poor. They are trying to better themselves in any way they can.
“We gotta make a change.
It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ 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.”
Let’s start working together instead of against each other.
We have power in numbers, even against the laws set in place so many years ago. Stand up when you see someone mistreated or brutalized.
Try looking at things from other people’s perspectives. Vote for the people who are more likely to make a change instead of ones that like their money, the status quo—or better yet, run for government positions yourself or become an officer and start making changes from the inside
I don’t want to be a White savior—I want people treated equally.
A lot of these lyrics are requests for people of color to work together. I’m not going to come in and tell them what to do. We already had enough of that.
I will try to do my part to lift the voices of all minority groups.