crowd of people

Somethings Got to Change

“Somethings got to change. The status quo is not acceptable,” he says.

“You don’t listen to me,” she fires back. 

“You say one thing and do another.”

“Talk is cheap. I need action.”

“You change for two weeks. Then it’s back to business as usual.”

These are words I hear often from clients in couples counseling. They speak from places of anger and frustration. Anger fueled by fear that the relationship they’ve poured themselves into for years is hopelessly broken. That it’s not worth the work it would take to repair it. They are hurting and they are looking to me for answers. I have no easy answers, but I do try to give them hope. 

Hope that change is possible. That it’s worth holding on, giving it their best shot, giving it time. Time to learn new ways of relating, new ways of thinking about each other. Different approaches to routine interactions. Hope. For without hope they are lost. 

“Somethings got to change!” This is the same cry we have heard from multitudes in the streets of the U.S., even the world, these past weeks. 

“Do you hear us? Somethings got to change!” They too are fueled by anger and by the fear that change will be temporary at best. 

Lasting change is a long and arduous process. This is especially true in race relations, embedded as they are in centuries of culture and politics.  

What must happen now—to set us as a nation and as individuals on a path to change—is a resurgence of hope. Hope for a better future. Hope for understanding. Hope for change. 

And action must come fast on the heels of hope. Action by Congress, by state and local legislatures, by police departments, by businesses. 

Action by the rank and file. You and I need to take action too. I admit to being stymied by the thought. It’s easy to see what action others can take. Fix the police departments, the court system, the prisons. But me? What can I do to make myself, my home, my practice, more equitable and accepting of different races, cultures, or belief systems?

I don’t have ready answers, but I do have hope. Hope that we will find a way. 

In the 1960s, Dr. King’s dream and the hopeful passion of protestors ignited the civil rights movement. Racial integration is now the law of the land. “Whites only” public services from water fountains to schools to hospitals are either a distant memory, or completely outside our experience and expectations.  

But that inequities still exist cannot be refuted. For example, socioeconomic differences have resulted in de-facto re-segregation of housing and schools, which in turn creates continuing educational and economic disparities. The justice system, core to our national identity, is repeatedly proven to be unjust.

The cruel death of George Floyd has heightened national awareness of injustice. Indeed, somethings got to change!

George Floyd was not a saint in his lifetime. He was a star athlete who struggled with addiction and was in and out of work. The father of five children from several relationships. A felon who spent nearly five years in prison. After prison, “Big Floyd” became a mentor to young black men in Houston’s Third Ward, part of a vibrant church and the Houston music scene. He moved to Minneapolis to find stability for himself and to be part of an organization that worked with the police for neighborhood acceptance. In many ways, George Floyd was Every Man.

What will it take to make George Floyd’s death a true turning point in our national consciousness rather than another riveting, but soon forgotten, news story? 

Continued mindfulness that results in changes in attitudes and actions. 

What if we all purposed to live by the golden rule—to treat others—all others—as we want to be treated? With respect and trust rather than disregard and suspicion. What if we—of all races and ethnicities—resolved to love our neighbor as we love ourselves? To see the world as people of other races see it, to walk a mile in their shoes? 

Empathy, acceptance and respect, after all, are crucial ingredients in any healthy relationship; be it partner, neighbor, coworker, friend. If I accept you for who you are, what you believe, how you think and feel—and you do the same for me—we will treat each other well. We will get along. We will respect and accept our differences and we will welcome our commonalities.

If we all open our ears to hear, our minds to understand and our hearts to care—lasting change will happen, in our lives and the lives of our neighbors. Race relations in our cities, our country, our world, will be transformed.

Painful though it may be, change must come. I have hope that in the midst of a deadly pandemic, the drive for equality begun in the 1960s has found new energy to carry us forward to a brighter tomorrow. 

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