Serendipity, the phenomenon of finding good things when you’re not looking for them, derives from an Arabian fable. But none of us who have experienced it doubt its reality.
It struck me the other evening while cheering myself up listening to some jazz. The lyric — “Winter is over, summer is near, are we stronger than we believe?” — struck a note of curiosity. I ran a Google search to see if the lyric was a quote. But I typed it with fat fingers and spell check did something to it, and the most brilliant AI platform of our time turned up news about George Floyd and racism in the United States.
Let that soak in for a moment. Serendipity. For our brothers and sisters who have suffered under the yoke of racism, the allegory of winter needs no explanation. Nor does its counterpart: summer. And as we watch horrific images assault our consciences, we struggle to make sense of the equation that “two wrongs do not make a right” is not greater than or less than “we the people, in order to form a perfect union….hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” And so we wonder: Are we stronger than we believe?
I’ll dare to answer that. We are. We always have been.
We are simultaneously weaker than we should be; weaker than we would have ourselves be.
But as a stream slowly builds from a spring – a mere trickle, into a river, we note that water never runs uphill. It may swirl in a back-eddy, it may churn in a pool, but it can never flow uphill. And as the river merges with other rivers, it grows in strength, frequently carving the earth beneath. Slowly. Too slowly to see in some cases. But then, inevitably, rivers cut through what stands in their way – sometimes pouring downward in the form of a waterfall. And immediately above the falls? A tranquil wide pool where – unless you are careful and take the context – you may not be able to see the water flow at all.
This winter of racism cannot, will not, last. It has been a centuries-long winter, and the end will not come easy. It was not easy in the 1860s or the 1960s or last year or last week. But each day that passes, each voice we raise in dissent against injustice and hate, brings us closer to a new season.
Summer is near. We are stronger than we believe.
Dr. Tony Frank is Chancellor of the CSU System