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Manuel Martinez

Professor Granillo

English 101

21 November 2019

A Change is Gonna Come

“It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die, ‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there,

beyond the sky.” Sam Cooke wrote “A Change Is Gonna Come” at the height of the civil rights

movement in 1963; considered the theme of this era. Racial hostilities caused minorities to

speak out towards bigotry in numerous ways. Some activists protested in marches or wrote

songs for equal rights to desert the traditional racial bias that had inhabited the nation’s history.

Change for minorities began to present itself after this era of fighting against prejudice. Over the

years, change came, but not in the way Sam Cooke had envisioned. Voices of change are often

silenced, and instead of blatant racism, our nation has adopted an implicit bias towards those of

color. As someone of color, I see the inequalities and discriminations between races. Growing

up, I learned about injustices of decades ago, but never did I imagine I would experience

prejudice because of my skin color. Looking back, throughout my life I have usually been the

odd one out. It always confused me as to why I never fully fit in with those around me. Whether

it be my classmates, teammates, or coworkers, growing up I always felt a slight sense of

isolation. The color of my skin separated me from those around me because a difference in skin

tone can set off many ignorant assumptions. Taking the time to understand one another and each

other’s differences results in less problems. As an adult I can now filter out racism for its true

existence in everyday life. Racism is toxic and disrupts social relations from progressing. In a
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nation built from diversity, citizens cannot allow tensions to grow. History has only proven

negative effects towards society when prejudice is involved. Social justice has yet to be

accomplished, but America is on a path towards rebuilding itself socially.

Social change is ongoing and has consistently allowed for people or groups to grow and

become more interconnected. Since the 1960’s, changes such as the Voting Rights Act or

desegregation have had a ripple effect on society. Schools where white and colored children

were separated because of color have long dissolved into history. Most citizens couldn’t fathom

a nation where segregation dominated. Some people lived through those times and can share

personal accounts. Fortunately, we can learn from these injustices and work towards a less

hostile society. Hostilities have decreased over the years and the nation has become a melting

pot for different races and cultures. Since the nation was founded, immigrants with multiple

cultures have migrated here. To this day, they still do. Segregation and discrimination as they

were in the 1960’s is a piece of history. Citizens can look back at a time when racial tensions

were at their peak and either it would destroy us or teach us how to grow. Thankfully we have

learned to overcome such prejudices. But now, the mindsets have been altered. Straying away

from discrimination is a work in progress but it will not occur after a short time. Consecutive

generations will need to agree on a progressive mindset that teaches those of the future how to

live and thrive together. Otherwise, the nation will plateau, and nothing will change.

Subconscious behaviors still show the piece of history that lives deep down in all of us, colored

or white.

I believe everyone is a little judgmental and can make assumptions just about anyone.

Racism is the one area where everyone seems to find a common ground; whether it be the victim

or the victimizer. As a child, I never understood why I always felt a little different from the
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other kids. It could have been my taste in music or the way I dressed. Looking back, I was very

confused with my identity. I was a Mexican growing up in a white neighborhood. Growing up

with a diverse cultural lifestyle in a community where most of my neighbors were one race,

white, was not something I could explain to most people; mainly just my family. Being different

was what I was used to, but it made it hard to relate to those my age. I never experienced racial

animosity around those I surrounded myself with. At the same time, I never truly felt accepted.

As an adult, I have witnessed and experienced racism frequently, but on a subliminal

level. At work, I am constantly given odd looks until I begin to speak. I am a server. My job

revolves around speaking with many different races frequently. I speak with proper

pronunciation and manners. The look on guest’s faces are usually more surprised than not once I

begin to engage in conversation. Fortunately, I have never experienced any extreme hostilities

involving race. The main figure of racism I witness is the subconscious looks or out casting of

those who are different. Segregation may not be in the form as it was during the civil rights era

in the1960’s. But in society, mentally, discrimination and segregation still exists.

The civil rights era was the tipping point for those who had been oppressed and

discriminated. Protests and groups formed to fight against the heinous treatment that had been

ongoing for centuries. Protest was the opportunity for those put down by prejudice to have their

voices heard. Powerful speakers such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X were icons

amongst the movement. During this time, music and speeches of the struggle to fight to be

relevant became another way to send a message of hope for change. Martin Luther King Jr.

wrote his famous “I Have A Dream” speech to encourage desegregation and hope for peace. The

message of this time was hope for change towards a brighter future.
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In 1963, artist Sam Cooke wrote “A Change Is Gonna Come” at the height of the civil

rights movement. This tune presented itself as the theme of the civil rights movement with lyrics

such as, “Then I go to my brother, And I say brother help me please, But he winds up knockin’

me, Back down on my knees.” Lyrics such as these gave a visual of what it was like during this

time for minorities. “A Change Is Gonna Come” is about a time when negative events have

occurred and turned towards hatred that has flooded the minds of society. By the end of the

song, the message was of hope for a future without separation and prejudice. Although our

nation has released the idea of physical segregation, society still endures with subconscious bias.

Implicit bias puts a strain on the relationships people have with one another.

Unconscious association links one characteristic to an entire group. Stereotyping compares

peoples’ stance in religion, race, gender, etc. to their own beliefs. Most of the time it is

unconscious. “It is the natural tendency of the brain to sift, sort, and categorize information

about the world that leads to the formation of these implicit biases,” writes Kendra Cherry of People are creatures of habit and will stick to the norm. Unfortunately, the

norm includes biases towards race that are internal. Our social cognition depends on our past

experiences and conditioning to form our views of the world. Jonathan Kahn of Columbia

University writes, “the rising notion that pervasive biases and negative associations that

constitute racism reside outside the realm of personal awareness and foster a denial of history.”

As a nation, we cannot forget history. History allows us to look at our past mistakes and

accomplishments and use them towards moving forward. Our history involves a great deal of

segregation and prejudice. Leaving this mindset behind will not happen overnight. Though,

counterproductivity is what will halt America from progressing as a nation.

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Racism is a form of discrimination that is influenced by implicit and explicit bias.

Implicit bias has hindered citizen’s ability to grow as a community. These habits can be found in

schools, workplace, or legal settings that involves race, sex, or religion. “A generation after the

civil rights movement, African Americans remain segregated, and disadvantaged relative to

Whites with respect to employment, earnings and assets, educational achievement and

attainment, and health and longevity. The average White family earns 1.5 times as much income,

and has several times as much wealth, as the average Black family. Additionally, African

Americans are more than twice as likely as. Whites to be unemployed."(California Law Review

pg 1184). Unfortunately, the mindsets of the nation have gravitated towards an unfavorable

position for minorities. The law has been now used as a tool against those of color. Outside the

confines of the law, citizens will act as they will even when no one is watching. Implicit bias

impacts our behavior and views but can be reduced. Instead of constantly judging, society can

focus on seeing people as individuals, adjusting their mindsets, consciously working towards

changing those views as they stagnate unification of American society.

As a child I experienced my first reality check involving racism. When I was in fifth

grade, I was playing at the park with my friend and my cousin. All three of us are Mexican.

While playing on the playground, a white male in his thirties approached us. He had a bottle of

soda in his hand and began to attempt to wet us, spraying us with the soda. He exclaimed, “Get

out of here you fucking beaners! This isn’t your hood!” This event occurred at the park I had

grown up at. It was no farther than five minutes walking distance from my house. To think that

someone told me to go to a location where I belonged when I had been born and raised in the one

they were attempting to rid me of was insane. This event is what began to strike the idea that

everyone I had grown up around had always seen my family and me as different. Speaking with
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my mother as an adult, she explains how I was not wrong in what I noticed in the mindsets of the

community I grew up in. This was the unfortunate truth of how little people have changed in

their beliefs towards other races.

“It’s been a long, a long time coming, But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it

will.” Sam Cooke could not have chosen a better word other than “change.” When “A Change

Is Gonna Come” was written, America was at the peak of the Civil Rights movement with

hostilities occurring across the nation. Marches and songs of protest were created as a result of

the racial tensions. “Change” was the only way the nation would grow and rid itself of the

prejudice that poisoned the country. I recognize racism today in many forms. Maybe, this is

because I am on the side that is constantly being judged and have allowed it to become normal.

With any occurrence, it hurts to see or hear of people mistreating others due to ignorance or the

unwillingness to have an open mind. People can be dislikeable, but it does not have to stem from

their race, gender, or religion etc. Race does not constitute one’s behaviors towards one another

but has constantly been used against people to form judgements. Using these shortcuts causes

the progression of society to slow down. History in our country shows so much division that

only when unity is presented, do we have the opportunity to really grow as a community.

Personal experiences have shown me how society works against itself and it is distasteful.

Change has come, but growth is what America needs. This task will not be instant, but rather

take many generations to filter out the prejudice that exists. Since the civil rights era, the minds

of citizens have developed an unconscious, judgmental attitude towards those of color. Racism

still exists, maybe not in the way Sam Cooke experienced, but it has been engraved in society

that it will not go away in a short time. Growth and change won’t happen overnight, “But I

know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”

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Works Cited

Banks, R.Richard, et al. “Discrimination and Implicit Bias in a Racially Unequal

Society.”California Law Review, vol. 94, no. 4, July 2006, pp. 1169–1190. EBSCOhost,


Cherry, Kendra. “Is It Possible to Overcome Implicit Bias?” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 15

Mar. 2019,

Davis, Thomas J. “Race on the Brain: What Implicit Bias Gets Wrong About the Struggle for

Racial Justice.” Library Journal, vol. 142, no. 19, Nov. 2017, p. 94. EBSCOhost,

Myers, Marc. “The Death of Soul’s King.” Wall Street Journal - Eastern Edition, vol. 264,

no. 137, 10 Dec. 2014, p. D5. EBSCOhost,

Trigg, Christopher. “A Change Ain’t Gonna Come: Sam Cooke and the Protest Song.”

University of Toronto Quarterly, vol. 79, no. 3, Summer 2010, pp. 991–1003.

EBSCOhost, doi:10.3138/UTQ.79.3.991.