By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 01, 2020
My dear Josh:
The happiness first.
You have spent seventeen years preparing for your graduation day. It is a time to celebrate with your parents and your friends, your teachers and loved ones, after years of hard work and dedication. You have been to summer camps—you even had a stint at one of the leading technology companies in the country—as you strove to carve out a space to begin your new adventure in college and to think about what you want to do after you graduate from college.
And then comes this gigantic monster, the coronavirus, and you are placed in a lurch. You couldn’t go to your Beautillion Ball and now you cannot go to your graduation ceremony. You cannot even experience the joy of taking your favorite girl to your graduation. All you can do is stay at home and celebrate your achievements via Zoom amongst your immediate family and friends.
You feel bad; you feel cheated. You are probably asking, “Why me?”
That is a legitimate question. But then again, you may want to ask, “Why not me?”
You see life plays funny games on us. Sometimes you get your blessings in the most unexpected way. Years ago, when “unfortunate” things happened, your great-grandmother would say, “Every disappointment is a blessing in disguise.”
I am sure you are asking, What kind of blessing could this be?
That’s a good question.
One way to answer this question is to suggest that the best made plans of mice and men sometimes go astray for reasons we never know.
For a young black man, just coming of age, a catastrophe such as this serves to remind you of the inequality of black people vis-à-vis other groups in the society. It should make you understand that all things are not equal in our society even though we are asked to believe they are. We call that ideology which Marxist of old referred to as possessing a false consciousness.
The coronavirus has hit black people extremely hard and in a disproportionate manner both here and in the United Kingdom. That’s your first lesson: Black people are not equal in this society and perhaps this lesson (call it a blessing) may teach you to remember that the road ahead for black people is twice as rough whether you live in the United States or in Europe. We have to work twice as hard but that is not always enough.
When we look at what’s taking place in the streets of Minneapolis, and see a white cop squeezing the life out of a black man’s body and all he can do, in the midst of his distress, is to call for his “Mama,” it makes you wonder what the country has done to black manhood. This image takes us back to the infancy of the United States when black folks were seen as mere property and commodities. Cops are supposed to protect and serve yet they squeeze out our lives in broad daylight. Fellow officers are present, ordinary citizens are filming what is taking place, yet they murder a black man with the full knowledge that they are protected by the letter of their law.
As I write, one man has been arrested for the death of George Floyd, the victim of white brutality.
Your president, Donald Trump, as he watched black people express their anger and pain showed total disregard for their humanity. He called them “thugs” and reminds them: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” forcing Twitter to flag the White House for “glorifying violence.” This is all a part of the war the president has unleashed against black people.
Events such as this one pull away the masks from the hypocrisy of your enemies and make you aware that even when, in the age of coronavirus, all of us are forced to wear masks to protect ourselves and others from contracting the virus, some people prefer to remain unmasked so that their violence can be seen in its brutal nakedness.
Your president has refused to wear a mask in public presumably because he has been tested and found to be free of the infection. However, nothing can hide the virus of racism deep within his heart.
That’s your second lesson and one that you must fight with all the might and power God has given you: that is, the deleterious effect of the virus of racism that you will face for the rest of your life.
Although you are disappointed and saddened because you won’t have the graduation your elder brother William had, you should count your own, unique blessings. In doing so, I ask you to remember the message contained in Proverbs 4:
“Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honor, when thou dost embrace her.”
In spite of your sadness, seek ye understanding.
I hope you enjoy your graduation day. Embrace its challenges and go forward with faith in your ability to overcome whatever travails may come your way. That is the blessing that your own unique graduation should bestow upon you. Embrace it and may it strengthen you to face the travails that await you for the rest of your life.
HAPPY GRADUATION DAY
Your loving grandpa.