Schools and Safety; What We Do When We Deny

School and Safety; What We Do When We Deny

© copyright 2013 Betsy L. Angert empathyeducates

Look to the left. Look to the “right.” In respect to education each side is willing to talk about sensitive subjects. Granted the two sides differ in respect to the specifics and the solutions.  Nevertheless, either or each will dive deeply into a dialogue.  

In reference to the subject of Common Core, the Left and Right cannot get enough.  Many Republicans and Democrats want nothing to do with Federally imposed curriculum restrictions and requirements.  “Teacher Professionalism,” each embraces the topic, although again their values and views vary. But publicly state that Black and Brown persons do not feel safe in their neighborhoods and that this veracity has a profound effect on education and people will come after you!

The politically astute and apathetically proud alike, pounce when asked to ponder the problem of urban violence and its affect on parents and children in the community.  Cyber-bullying and bullying in general are constructs we can discuss.  But speak of the unspeakable and people will likely proclaim that you are being unjustly punitive, politically incorrect, or in short, you are a racist.   “Shhh” they say.  Let us not talk about that.  Other subjects, yes.  We can discuss those, but not how anxious an inner city resident feels when in their own home or community.  Instead, let us talk about Common Core, bad teachers, and great ones.  Those topics are fine; even favorites amongst the education elite. But how fragile life is for the Black and Brown persons who fear crime in their communities? Many say: let’s not go there – literally or metaphorically. The effects of crime on the psyches of children of color, and its impact on education, are rarely discussed.

Let’s not go there intellectually either, or at least not in any great depth. Skating along the surface will suffice.  Academics admittedly do not wish to tempt the fate that of the Moynihan Report [1965] on the Black family.  The mainstream too is timid.  On occasion, the Press will dip their toes in the waters of awareness.  Indeed, in recent months and in the last few years nationally Broadcasters gently touch that tender topic of “violence on our streets.” However, mostly these stories feature tales of mass carnage – the shootings in Tucson, Aurora, Milwaukee, and more recently Newtown, a white suburban Connecticut community, but none of these approach that dreaded third rail, violence in Black and Brown communities and its effect on education.  

Mentions of the circumstances that cause youth to use the term  Chi-raq when speaking of Chicago are scant and indiscriminate.   Even these, when discussed, rarely venture into the overlap evident in education.  Neighborhoods severely affected by violence are also the communities in which schools are forced to closed, poverty is high, hopes are low, and fear is ever-present.  

On one occasion recently, we were afforded a glimpse into what occurs in inner cities.  First Lady Michelle Obama paid homage to a teen who was struck down in the heart of the  Windy City. However, once again, the real issue was not on view.  Gun Violence supplanted the subject; frequently people of color, parents and their progeny, do not feel safe in their own urban homes.  And why would they?  Roadways are riddled with danger.  Playgrounds too can be quite perilous.  Incident after incident affirms what remains invisible from the masses.  The streets are not safe and too often, urban schools and surrounding areas are no sanctuary.

As she does at the end of every school day, Rakayia Thompson waited for her 12-year-old outside the Parkside Community Academy just before 3 p.m. last week.

“Next thing you know, gunshots,” she said.

As she stood outside with her 6-year-old son and her 7-year-old daughter, a flood of bullets suddenly came their way from East End Avenue, near 70th Street, next to the playground.

Panic followed the incident on Nov. 20, Thompson recalled. The stream of kids leaving the pre-kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school scattered in every direction.

“There were kids’ shoes everywhere,” said Angel White, who had been waiting for her three kids. “They ran out [of] their shoes.”

Thompson said kids were falling and busting their lips as they scrambled.

“They tried to shoot me!” her 5-year-old son interjected.

Real-life stories from Camden, Philadelphia. Detroit, Baltimore and St. Louis, rarely see the light of day and when they do the discussion is gun violence, not the root causes or the insidious effects of inner city violence.

Again, the public avoids the physicality that is the condition of our communities, and more importantly, emotionally we disconnect. Granted, we study the situation from afar and make recommendations. Experts engage in theoretical and methodological research.  Some study the fear urban residents feel, be it real or imagined. Scholars look at the individual’s sense of vulnerability.  Others examine social disorganization, (rate of marriage, racial heterogeneity,  familial disruption,  socioeconomic status,  and urbanization (core indicators of social disorganization)) and again, avoid the people.

The public favors assumptions.  Some prefer the numbers. Densely populated areas or drugs are to blame for violent behavior, although the statistics do not always bear this out.  Countless of our largest cities are relatively safe. An analytic examination reveals that disinvestment delivers the despair, despondency, and dread that at any moment, you too may be murdered.

Andrew Schiller, Neighborhood Scout’s founder noted that “in many cases, city centers, which benefit from development, an influx of people and more amenities, experience less crime than outskirts and even inner ring suburbs.”

Regardless of the look and separate from the literature, the consensus is the same; stay away from what frightens you. Gun shots. Children murdering children.  Crime on inner city streets, or the inner city itself, people believe these are the problem.  Indeed, a too constant refrain is  “It is those urban communities and the persons who reside within them who commit violent offenses and victimize their own.  Such statements preclude preventative policies. These serve as excuses for suburban and rural Americans who tend to think that people need to take care of their own.  

Oh, the more “sensitive” will say the reactionary rhetoric is not true.  Academics will defend the downtrodden. However, these individuals too take no real ownership. Poverty, the intellectuals will say, that is the problem; it is as simple as that.”  Simple? Safety and the reality that a bullet in the hallway or coming through the window will kill you or your child instantly  is not a simple subject.  Nor is it one that as a society we can rightly dismiss.

It is easy to place blame on a circumstance, or put the onus on the “other,” but perhaps there is more that can be done.  What might that be? Face our selves and our folly.  Ask yourself; will we ever dare do what is difficult; look at the ways in which we, or more significantly our silence contributes to crime in urban poor communities.  Could we acknowledge and accept that the greater paradox and bigger problem is that we do not even challenge our perceptions or see what is right there, in front of our faces.

The children cry. Parents plead; ‘see us!’  Feel our pain!  Understand that we fear crime in “our communities!”  Fifty-four [54] percent of Black adults see violence as a “very serious problem” in their communities.  Sixty-nine [69] percent believe it is fairly serious issue, one among many.  The presence of guns is a grave proposition, one that haunts adults of color each and ever day.  However, it is not the only issue that burdens our poorer and impoverished citizens. It is but the most obvious one, the one uppermost in the minds of persons who by circumstances are forced to question their mortality and it is also the one that is “safest” to discuss.

Fueling these concerns is the reality that for too many Black young children, there are too few safe harbors from these ills that plague their neighborhoods, schools, and for some, their homes. Children and adults alike identify neighborhood violence, drug-related violence, gun violence, and violence in schools as areas of significant concern.

When a young girl in Memphis was asked to name one thing that if changed would help her to achieve her goals for the future, she replied:  “To help me live through this dangerous world today so I can [grow up] to be a marine biologist.”  – Young person, age 11 to 14, Memphis, TN

The prevailing view among Black adults, caregivers and leaders is that today, the situation for people of color is worse than it was a score ago. Disenfranchisement and disinvestment have destroyed the fabric of their communities.   Guns only deliver a more deadly and frequently final blow.  The newer and insidious issues that have emerged in the last few decades,  have had a devastating effect on Black communities and the children growing up in them.  Economic isolation and unemployment.  Disproportionately high Black imprisonment rates, especially among Black young men, and then, of course, the older challenges exacerbate  the crisis’ that plagued Black communities. Violence.  Drugs and addiction.  Failing schools made more so by policies that presume failure before it is proven.  Negative cultural and media influences.  Fractured Black families and communities, which conceivably lead to a loss of moral values.  Teen pregnancy.

Adults, caregivers, and leaders look to the future and express guarded optimism.  Innumerable say they are hopeful, that is if they and the young survive.  According to Black Perspectives on Black Children Face and What Their Future Holds “Two-thirds of caregivers worry a great deal (45%) or quite a bit (20%) about their child or children they know being victimized and a large majority believe that many Black children will be victimized before reaching adulthood.

“I asked a 17-year-old the question you asked me: What do you see in 10 years?  How do you [see your life] in 10 or 15 years? And the bottom line was he said I don’t think I’m going to be living after four years.  Now that blew me away, because I knew the young man was serious.” Low-income caregiver, Washington, D.C.

The starkness of this thought and the reality that prompts such a dire reflection is all too common in disenfranchised communities. Yet, we do not discuss it. The subject is too delicate, or is it the thought that we might be criticized, as Patrick Moynihan was when he asked Americans to assess what their inaction and inattention condones.  Could we at least begin to have the conversations previously left behind?  In June of 2013, The Urban Institute chose to Revisit The Moynihan Report.   Might we?

Surely, silence and surface assessments have not served us, our children, or troubled communities well.  Indeed, Black and Brown people state that life in their communities is now worse.   Saying safety is not an issue for those who live in fear or that it is less significant than poverty as a whole is like saying my pangs of hunger have nothing to do with the reality that there is no food in my cupboard or money do buy fare.

Disinvestment, poverty and hopelessness are borne out of neglect.  Let us neglect no more.



References:…

Gentrification. Segregation. Poverty. And Education

© copyight 2013 Betsy L. Angert BeThink

In 2013 the issue of poverty is pronounced.  It is the cause of great debate and much conflict.  However, the conflict is mostly in interest, self-interest.  The one interest that receives far less if any attention at all is poverty and the extent of poverty. How to effectively end it is a question that few consider.  The conventional wisdom is there is a safety-net which will care for the impoverished. The reality is there are holes in the net.  Equally significant is the notion that we, as individuals, will never be among the poor.  Actually, one in two of us already are.

Perceptions explain why most Americans do not consider themselves poor.  The common belief held by 27% is the poor are lazy and I am not.  Forty-three percent of Americans surveyed said they believe people living in poverty can always find a job if they really want to work. At the same time, 38 percent of Americans have requested some type of help including food or financial assistance from a charity.  Thirteen [13] percent have spent a night on the streets or in a shelter.   Perceptions of Poverty counter reality. Nonetheless, these are notions we hold dear.

Mostly mired in self-survival, people, a large percentage of whom are the low-income working poor,have little time to attend to the poverty of others.  This affects our children and their education.  Not withstanding the desire, “low-income caregivers frequently do not know the names of their children’s teachers or friends. One study found that only 36 percent of low-income parents were involved in three or more school activities on a regular basis, compared with 59 percent of parents above the poverty line (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000).”  Startling as it is, for calendar year 2011 the percentage of children (persons under 18) in poverty was 21.9 percent. The total number  that same year was 16.1 million.

This may be the truer silent and unseen majority.  When we do catch sight of the children, poor and wealthy alike, we perceive healthy, happy, bundles of joy.  Never do we imagine what we would not wish to believe exists, especially to the extent it does.

As Professor John Korsmo, PhD  observed in The Journal of Educational Controversy, Poverty and Class: Discussing the Undiscussible,  “Much like race, religiosity, sex, and a whole host of contrived privilege points in the U.S., poverty and class have remained for the most part don’t-go-there designations; topics that individuals, human service, and educational institutions often avoid openly discussing.”  Our intentional choice not to think about, talk about, or teach the subject of socio-economic privilege associated with class dilutes efforts to eliminate poverty and ultimately, our progress in doing so.  We do not associate with or support those who bear the brunt of income inequality.  Conveniently and again by choice, we drive down safer roads.

The vast majority of us sit in our cars, alone.  We travel on freeways, fast.  Were we to slow down we would still not see what exists behind what we call sound-walls.  We are sealed off and do not, cannot see the circumstances of the other, “those poor souls.”  The barriers we build both literally and figuratively are large and high; best of all for policymakers they hide the truth.  Black and Brown communities are ignored.  The only time we attend to what occurs in these neighborhoods is when we think to convert them. Take a blighted neighborhood, expel the residents, raze the roofs, and build beauty where blight once existed.  Where do we put the poor who once occupied the dilapidated homes?  That is a problem we will set aside, place behind a newer wall and never wonder about again.  Thus, is the situation today in Chicago 2013.

Excuses are made.  Officials invested in Charter Schools and gentrification projects say “Enrollment is down.  Schools are underutilized.”,  Neither claim can be substantiated without skewing the numbers.  Even some  High-performing schools are slated for closures; however only in already neglected Black and Brown communities.  Often children are being forced to travel long distances and cross gang-lines to attend a lower-performing receiving school.  Mostly, the young will walk. Transportation is costly and dollars for such a luxury are scant.   Parents and Principals at the “receiving schools” are perplexed and troubled. Classrooms currently in the “receiving schools” will become fuller,  basically overcrowded entities.  Bad as these concerns are, what is worst is the impending community effect of school closures.  Lifelines will be cut!

For Tzia, a third grader who is on the student council, afternoons at the neighborhood school on Chicago’s West Side are a variety show of ballet and martial arts, hip-hop and cooking class, tutoring and fund-raisers. Five days a week, sometimes past nightfall.

Much will be lost.  Mothers such as mother Shawanna Turner, 30, attended the school she now sends little Tzia to. Her family all graduated from this neighborhood school.  In the communities that face school closures, generations of families came together in their neighborhood learning centers.  Children found freedom and refuge, as did their parents in local public schools.  Events were planned in and executed around school activities. Neighborhood businesses in the surrounding area too were invested in these institutions. Children learned. Moms and Dads took classes too.  Extra-curricula activities expanded minds and supported strong bodies.  From the windows of these schools the winds blew and streets were safer because of the education little learners received.  Now, that solid anchor will be taken away.

Doors will be slammed shut. Windows shuttered. Building will be left to die or be demolished quickly.  We, those who do not wish to see or discuss what we do or what is done in our names will remain silent. That is the American way.  Do we drive by and shoot down all that supports a community?

Chicago is not alone. The difference in what occurs is only in scale.  Gentrification is the complement to segregation.  Segregation is the sister to poverty. Each shows up in our city schools.  Essentially, this is the story of school closures and the fight for education as a human and civil right.

Gentrification. Segregation. Poverty. Each cements the certainty that children of color will be underserved in society and underserved in our schools.  Education, which can be the cure, is hurt by each of these.  Lets us look at the numbers, and then seek out those sweet faces, our fellow Americans who flounder because of what we have done and are doing..

Perhaps, it is past time to tear down sound and sight walls.   Let us acknowledge the pervasive inequality and then, and always take action!  We might begin by thinking more thoroughly about school closings, the cause and effect.  Consider the circumstances in countless cities, Chicago, Philadelphia Detroit and New York…and your hometown. Is there a racial divide, a socioeconomic destabilization, and are children and education lost?

Perchance, if we ensure that education is a human and civil right we will establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, or we can settle or what is and stay silent.  Please ponder the following articles and statistics.  You may be surprised by what has been long blocked from view.


Poverty and segregation: birds of a feather

Posted by Steve Bogira on 06.08.12 at 04:01 PM

Ignoring the misery of the poor is easy because of our separateness.

“It’s incredible that we tolerate for a minute the reality of 6 million of us living on food stamps alone,” Laura Flanders observed last week in a Nation blog post. (Nationally, the average monthly individual food stamp benefit is $134.) “I suspect it’s because we’re experiencing a new kind of segregation,” Flanders wrote. “Somehow, neither policy makers nor opinion makers seem to know enough poor people well enough to feel them, living and breathing.”

Flanders is right that segregation is central to our apathy about poverty; it isn’t really six million of us subsisting on food stamps. But segregation isn’t new, nor is it limited to policy makers and opinion makers. It’s a way of life, in Chicago and many big cities. As we showed last year, most of our city’s African-Americans still live in 21 community areas whose aggregate population is a stunning 96 percent black. The vast majority of Chicago’s high-poverty census tracts are in these areas.

Then there’s our public school system. To look at the percentage of white kids in Chicago’s public schools you’d never know that the city is 45 percent white. The racial segregation of our schools is economic segregation as well: 87 percent of the students in the public schools are from low-income families. With such a concentration of poverty in classrooms, trying to solve the schools’ problems with a longer day or more rigorous testing is naive.

We’re also segregated, racially and economically, where most of us work. And our residential and economic separateness lead quite naturally to segregation when we eat out, and go to movies, plays, concerts, and ball games. White people often don’t even notice how pervasive segregation is, since, for the most part, we’re not the ones being harmed by it.

Becoming aware of how segregated we are won’t by itself change things. But it’s a necessary first step.

Chicago’s growing racial gap in child poverty

Posted by Steve Bogira on 10.04.12 at 10:23 AM

More than one in three Chicago children are living in poverty, according to newly published census data. But a closer look at those figures shows that “one in three” hides a striking inequality.

Fewer than one in 11 white kids here are living in poverty-compared with more than one in two black kids.

The news regarding white Chicago kids, in fact, is good: their poverty rate is significantly lower than the national rate for white kids. But for black, Asian, and Hispanic children, the poverty incidence is higher in Chicago than for their counterparts nationally:


  • Children 17 and younger. Data from American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed by Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance,/li>

    Moreover, the racial gap in child poverty in Chicago appears to be growing:

    PAUL JOHN HIGGINS

  • Children 17 and younger. Data from American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed by Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance
  • As the numbers show, child poverty has declined for Asians and gone up modestly for whites since 2000-while climbing significantly for blacks and Latinos.

    References and Resources….

    Mitt, My Good Man





    Romney: Rivals’ attacks a ‘good warm-up’

    copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    Dearest Mitt . . .

    I am unsure if we have had the pleasure of an in-person exchange.  I too travel in political circles.  However, I do not recall.  Perhaps we met in the past.  I trust I have done business with you and your firm, Bain Capital.  Bravo on your successes.

    Please allow me to introduce myself by way of this letter.  This morning, I caught a glimpse of your Today Show interview with Matt Lauer.  I heard you speak of the exaggerated envy now heard on the campaign trail.  Oh, my friend Mitt, how I relate. If I might; well stated my man. People do want what they do not have. First Bain, then the White House.  Indeed, one Chief Executive position ensured that you were a world power.  The other is but a natural transition. Instead of having a seat at the table of global influence, as President of the United States, you, old man, will own the table.

    I concur with the thought expressed in the title of a Wall Street Journal Mitt.  The Bain Capital Bonfire. Romney has a good story to tell, if he’s willing to tell it. Might you have read the account my friend?  The treatise speaks of the gains and losses, signature events in our glorious Capitalist system.  You know the tale dear Mitt and I trust you will articulate it well. I look forward to the day when you share it with me personally; perhaps, over dinner.  Until then, may I offer my own anecdote.  It speaks of why I do not envy you.

    Mitt, my man, I am an extremely wealthy individual.  Granted, financially, I have had my share of ups and downs.  At birth, I was born into money.  My father, Michael, had been a very poor young man.  One of thirteen children, the son of first generation Americans, Michael had to work his way to the top.  

    Michael enrolled in University. He may have been the first in his family.  He completed his degree in Accounting.  Michael sought and realized Certification.  Then, “visionary” that he was Michael opened his own business. The man was an expert at making money.  He made millions for his client and much for himself.  Ultimately, his firm grew and grew.  

    At the time of my birth, my parents lived in a large house on a hill.  The estate was built only a year before.  “Mother” designed the private residence herself.  She chose the neighbor and the acreage.  It was a beautiful plot of land, rolling hills, a deep forest to roam through.  I used to  wander the woods for hours on end.

    As a seedling, conceived in a Waldorf Astoria Hotel suite, you might correctly imagine that, as  a child, my clothes were all New York designer collections.  My backyard playground was furnished with the finest swing sets.  We had two.  Sliding boards, climbing bars, and seesaws as well.  Among my favorite toys was not a plaything at all.  Made of wood, large and spacious, a cabin graced the grounds.  Outside of my little log home was a sandbox.  The container for tiny grains did not sit on a lawn. No. the box was built deep into the soil. When I sat within, a portion of my body might appear buried below the surface of the land.  Did I mention the whirly-bird? Oh, Mitt, my life was a child’s delight . . . or so it might have appeared.

    I trust any child would have been envious of me, all that I had, and did daily. We vacationed often. A skating weekend here, days away at a resort . . . Sun and fun. Snow and frolic.  ate at the best restaurants regularly. My “father” owned one, that is, in name only.  The Penthouse was an investment made on a client’s behalf.   Taxes, title exchanges. . . shelters and such.   I am sure you understand old man.

    My Mom too lived a lovely life. She had no need to work.  Philanthropic endeavors were her want.  Dressed to the nines, she volunteered hither and yon.  At times, the women would play. Bowling. Cards. Shopping.  Mommy was active in many an organization.  Religious affiliations were a wondrous source of shared pleasure.  Father’s career was furthered through the associations.  Mother made friends with the women during daylight hours.  In the evening, the men would join their wives at a club.  On countless occasions, a bigger bash was planned.  

    Often, my parents hosted these.  The best china, the finest crystal, and oh the food.  Catered gourmet delicacies filled every room.  As a tot, I would sneak out of my room and “steal” a snack. Sure to be noticed, I was met with a smile and “Is she not so cute?”

    Cute? Charming? Endearing? So it might seem. Reason for envy? Absolutely!  That is, if it were true.  Yes, the tale is accurate.  The account is my life.  However, as blissful as it might sound, as beautiful as it might be or have been, it was not.  There were hidden hurts.  

    I was a spoiled child. Not spoiled, overindulged or a tike with too much.  I had nothing! There was no love. My parents had no time for me. The two hired a woman to raise me before I was born.  I was given everything, anything my little heart desired, except a connection.  Try as I might, I could not bond with my parents.  I had elder sisters. However, they too abandoned me prior to my first appearance in their home.  

    The pair was forever busy.  Each had friends who were surely more fun than a baby sibling.   Fine fabrics hung in their closets and were worn on their backs.  Their bedrooms were as full as their lives without me.  While it may seem that only I was unhappy in this home, in this family, at the age of eight and one half, I discovered the truth.

    Ten days after my parents wedding anniversary, my Mom walked out!  I was eight.  My sisters were much older.  It was a Sunday. The five of us were it the same eatery we dined at each Sunday, just as we had for years.  We just ordered dinner when my eldest sibling asked for her allowance.  Mother said she could not have it until she cleaned her room.  Father, on the other hand, assured her she would never need to clean.  He would forever furnish her with a Maid and of course, her pocket money  

    I will not bore you with the details or the drama, my friend.  Suffice to say, my mother looked across the table at her selfish children, her moneyed husband whose sincerest interest was to have more, and decided she wanted none of it.  Mommy rose from the table.  Walked towards the door and then, through it.  She left!  Stunned, the rest of us sat there for a minute.  I wonder; was my father thinking of the food that had yet to arrive, or . . .

    I will never know. He never spoke to me much.  The next day he did tell us to clean our rooms. We did, but it was too late.  Mother was determined to make a life for herself and any of us who wished to join her.  For a time, there were two of us children.  My eldest sister and I elected to be with our Mom and her new husband, the man I finally felt I could call Dad.

    While Mommy was awarded child support and alimony, she refused each.  Barbara wanted none of Michael’s “Dirty Money!” She had had enough of what she characterized as “ill gotten gains.”  That was the reason she chose to give it all up.  We moved to another State and to other than a wealthy suburb.  Our family of four lived a far different life than the one we had always known.  We were poor, dirt poor.

    Living on $1500 a year . . . Yes, you read that right. Fifteen-hundred a year for a family of four.  Welfare knocked on our door and said, “You need to apply for financial assistance.  You are eligible.” However, my parents refused.  Mommy wanted no handouts.  Daddy yearned to make it on his, our own.  Mommy gardened.  Daddy did all our household repairs.  Logan returned to school and also worked for meager wages.  Mother too secured a position.  You might recall the once vibrant five and dime, W.T. Grant and Company. Mommy’s employee  discount helped.  The woman who for a score purchased her lingerie at Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord and Taylor, Bonwit Teller’s and other  exclusive establishments bought my first brassiere at Grant’s.

    As a child in this newer reality, I was allowed one new outfit in the Fall of the year, for the first day of school and one in the Spring.  Chic, expensive, exceptional and elegant designs? Not anymore.  There were no dollars for such fabulous duds.  Next to nothing at little cost would have to do.  This was true in every aspect of life.

    Mommy grew vegetables. Daddy helped.  All our produce was fresh grown.  Breads, pies, cakes and cookies all came out of the family oven.  Store bought goodies were a luxury we could not afford.  Later, Daddy took up fishing.  Even before that, all our entrees were prepared from scratch. Meals were a time for conversation and connections. At last, I was connected!!!!!  That is rich; a richness I envied whenever and wherever I saw it.  Ultimately, I had it! With not a dime to my name, I had love!  I was loved!!!!!!  Mitt, I trust you likely think you have love as well, and money, and that is the reason others feel envious.  Again, I relate to your reality my friend Mitt.

    Over the years, wealth once again became part of my life, or perhaps more accurately, in my Mom’s life, by extension, I too had enough. The family moved to another magnificent house.  A panoramic window looked out onto the ocean. The neighbors were highly educated, esteemed, experts in their respective fields.  You know Mitt; they were our kind of people.

    While our life was similar to what it was in earlier, years it was not as it had ever been. The difference; this time was our greenbacks were clean!  We laughed often at our lot in life as we do now upon reflection.  So my friend, I do not envy you.  I have and want not.  Oh certainly Mitt, I, as most humans might, enjoy nice “things.”  I acknowledge that is far easier when earnings are great.  However; while I never expected to quote Governor Rick Perry, in this moment I will.  “There is a real difference between Venture Capitalism and Vulture Capitalism.”  My personal experience Mitt is: A vulture capitalist eats children and families.  A venture capitalist feeds people so that they might prosper.  A free market Entrepreneur wishes to ensure that every person, one and all, have the earnings necessary to live well.

    References and Resources . . .

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    Issue Number One; Economic Insecurity Breeds Bigotry, Bias and Bitterness



    Fear Itself

    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

    He was a beautiful bouncing baby boy.  He was born to two parents that love him dearly.  Even before his birth, indeed, prior to conception, this little fellow was the apple of his parent’s eyes.  His biological beginning was carefully calculated.  As the seeds of life developed into a bright-eyed baby, the people he now knows as Mom and Dad thought of little else but Maxwell.  The soon to be proud Papa and Momma anxiously anticipated the day they could hold this bundle of joy.  Each of his parents was eager to meet and greet the small, sweet face of the guy that they would call Max.  Maximum value, supreme significance, marvelously magnificent, all this was and would be their son.  After Max was delivered and during any political season, such as this, Mom and Dad feel certain Max is issue number one.

    The guardians look over their angel.  They plan for his future, and they are apprehensive, just as their parents and grandparents were before them.  For generations the realities of daily life have shaped parental priorities.  First and foremost, families want to survive, to feel safe and secure.  Yet, much that accounts for stability is beyond the control of a parent or any single person.  Moms and Dads agonize, as do all individuals.  Economic, educational, environmental concerns have an effect on caregivers and all citizens.  Military engagements also affect households, even if only one lives within the domicile.  Mothers, fathers, and babies, boys or girls learn to fear.

    Ultimately, in the course of a life, each individual will ask, how does any matter affect me, my family, and friends of mine?  Countless citizens sense we have loss the sense that within a society, each individual works for the commonweal.  The words of Thomas Paine On the Origin and Design of Government in General are principles from the past.  In America today, the common folk feel they can no longer trust the government.  In recent years, people profess too many promises were broken; lies were told.  Intelligence was not wise.  Still, Americans sense there is an enemy.

    In the minds of most Americans, the foe exists outside self.  Few have fully internalized the truth of the words uttered by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  As people do, citizens in this country trust themselves.  People know their faith will guide them.  The Almighty will not disappoint them.  Proud of their personal strength and all they survived throughout the course of their lives, the American public, no matter their economic station believes their family will be fine.  All Americans trust in their ability to fight the opposition.  Residents in the United States are not afraid to take up arms if they need to protect themselves from evil forces.

    Nevertheless, Americans are “bitter.”  People in the cities, the suburbs, and in the countryside, resent the precarious position their leaders have placed them in.  In the “Land of the free and home of the brave” the public is “looking for strong leadership from Washington.”  Individuals and communities recognize they cannot go it alone.  Sadly, those previously entrusted with Executive privileges have not served the common folk within the United States well.  Citizens have expressed their ample concern for quite a while and no one seems to hear the cries.  While some of the Presidential aspirants wish to believe Americans are not indignant . . .

    Poll: 80% of Americans Dissatisfied

    By Associate Press.

    Time Magazine

    April 4, 2008

    (New York) – More than 80 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, the highest such number since the early 1990s, according to a new survey.

    The CBS News-New York Times poll released Thursday showed 81 percent of respondents said they believed “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.”  That was up from 69 percent a year ago, and 35 percent in early 2002.

    The survey comes as housing turmoil has rocked Wall Street amid an economic downturn.  The economy has surpassed the war in Iraq as the dominating issue of the U.S. presidential race, and there is now nearly a national consensus that the United States faces significant problems, the poll found.

    A majority of Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school say the United States is headed in the wrong direction, according to the survey, which was published on The New York Times’ Web site.

    Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was doing better . . .

    The poll also found that Americans blame government officials for the housing crisis more than banks or homebuyers and other borrowers. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers.

    Americans favored help for people but not for financial institutions in assessing possible responses to the mortgage crisis.  A clear majority said they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the depth of a recession.

    Intellectually astute, each individual understands to his or her core, a country must work well as a whole.  If we act independently of others, with little regard for those who reside in our nation, we all will realize a reason to feel insecure.  No family can survive alone. Maxwell’s parents can plan and work to provide, but if the country suffers from a crisis, be it fiscal, a protracted feud, the cost of food, or fuel, the family will also find themselves in situation critical.

    In a society, we are our neighbors’ keeper, for what affects those in adjacent abodes will influence us.  If one person is poor, so too is his brother.

    The tenet is true in the abstract; it is also viable concretely.  We need only consider what occurs when one domicile on the block is in disrepair or foreclosure flourishes in an enclave.  Property values for all homes in the area plummet.  A family functions best as a unit.  A nation fares well when we are one.

    Our most conservative estimates indicate that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile (essentially a city block) of a single-family home results in a 0.9 percent decline in value.  Cumulatively, this means that, for the entire city of Chicago, the 3,750 foreclosures in 1997 and 1998 are estimated to reduce nearby property values by more than $598 million, for an average cumulative single-family property value effect of $159,000 per foreclosure. This does not include effects on the values of condominiums, larger multifamily rental properties, and commercial buildings.

    Less conservative estimates suggest that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile of a property results in a 1.136 percent decline in that property’s value and that each foreclosure from one-eighth to one-quarter mile away results in a 0.325 percent decline in value.  This less conservative finding corresponds to a city-wide loss in single-family property values of just over $1.39 billion. This corresponds to an average cumulative property value effect of more than $371,000 per foreclosure

    In 2008, this consideration consumes millions of persons who thought they were safe and secure.  As the subprime debacle ripples through every community, people realize their very survival is at risk.  Everyone, even some of the elite now experience a profound sense of insecurity.  Again, people ask who or what might they trust.  The average American has faith only in what is familiar.  Max, Mom, and Dad, families turn to what is tried and true.  Whatever has protected them in the past, they hope, will save them from what is an uncertain future.

    Certainly, people have no confidence in government.  Many are frustrated.  They resent those who placed them in such a precarious situation.  Mothers, fathers, sons such as Max, and daughters are reminded, without regulations only the few profit.  Dreams die.  Witness the subprime debacle.

    Mortgage companies and banks, such as Wells Fargo, have twisted the average prime mortgage loan into something much more incapable of paying by the recipient, but profitable to the company. Subprime loans, as “adjustable rate mortgages,” are packed with deceiving modifications that have low “teaser” rates that expand in interest exponentially after an initial low pay period.  Families that have received Subprime loans have bit into a bitter center of the sugar-coated American dream.

    Citizens in this once prosperous country wonder whether they will ever again be able to trust that they can aspire to greater heights.  Homes are no longer worth what they were at the time of purchase.  Payments on adjusted rate mortgages [ARM] are exorbitant and balloon expenditures are now due.  Americans feel pinched.  Businesses are also affected by a slowed economy and bad investments.  Bankruptcy is an option, although brutal.  As the cost of fuel and food rises, financial fears become more real.  Existence takes a toll.  As Americans assess the circumstances within their home region, they realize there is reason to hold on tightly to what they know and love.  

    Perchance G-d and country are all citizens can believe in, and maybe there is no longer reason to believe either of these will save them.  Certainly, Administrations in the recent past and present have not protected us well.  After all, our Presidents, Congress, and the Federal Reserve were responsible for the Demise of Glass-Steagall Act.  This law once regulated banks and limited the conflicts of interest created when commercial depositories were permitted to underwrite stocks or bonds.  Without such oversight, Americans lost their security.  Survival no longer seems possible.  The American Dream is a nightmare.

    The Next Slum?

    By Christopher B. Leinberger

    Atlantic Monthly

    March 2008

    Strange days are upon the residents of many a suburban cul-de-sac. Once-tidy yards have become overgrown, as the houses, they front have gone vacant. Signs of physical and social disorder are spreading.

    At Windy Ridge, a recently built starter-home development seven miles northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, 81 of the community’s 132 small, vinyl-sided houses were in foreclosure as of late last year. Vandals have kicked in doors and stripped the copper wire from vacant houses; drug users and homeless people have furtively moved in.  In December, after a stray bullet blasted through her son’s bedroom and into her own, Laurie Talbot, who’d moved to Windy Ridge from New York in 2005, told The Charlotte Observer, “I thought I’d bought a home in Pleasantville.  I never imagined in my wildest dreams that stuff like this would happen.”

    In the Franklin Reserve neighborhood of Elk Grove, California, south of Sacramento, the houses are nicer than those at Windy Ridge-many once sold for well over $500,000-but the phenomenon is the same.  At the height of the boom, 10,000 new homes were built there in just four years. Now many are empty; renters of dubious character occupy others.  Graffiti, broken windows, and other markers of decay have multiplied.  Susan McDonald, president of the local residents’ association and an executive at a local bank, told the Associated Press, “There’s been gang activity.  Things have really been changing, the last few years.”

    In the first half of last year, residential burglaries rose by 35 percent and robberies by 58 percent in suburban Lee County, Florida, where one in four houses stands empty. Charlotte’s crime rates have stayed flat overall in recent years-but from 2003 to 2006, in the 10 suburbs of the city that have experienced the highest foreclosure rates, crime rose 33 percent. Civic organizations in some suburbs have begun to mow the lawns around empty houses to keep up the appearance of stability. Police departments are mapping foreclosures in an effort to identify emerging criminal hot spots.

    The decline of places like Windy Ridge and Franklin Reserve is usually attributed to the subprime-mortgage crisis, with its wave of foreclosures.  And the crisis has indeed catalyzed or intensified social problems in many communities. But the story of vacant suburban homes and declining suburban neighborhoods did not begin with the crisis, and will not end with it. A structural change is under way in the housing market-a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work.  It has shaped the current downturn, steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes.  And its effects will be felt more strongly, and more broadly, as the years pass. Its ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound.

    Perchance, more weighty than the influence of a social degradation on a community is the impression such dire circumstances leave on a little lad such as Maxwell. Young Max will learn, just as his parents had.  Likely, he too will come to believe that he can only depend on himself.  An older and wiser Max will not fully grasp how extraordinary he is, or perhaps he will know all to well that no matter how glorious he is, someone might jeopardize his stability.  No matter how well he lives his life, another force, power, person, or authority might cause his dreams to go awry.  

    Maxwell sees how hard life is for his parents.  He comes to understand that he too will always and forever, need to prove his worth.  How else might he hold onto his job, his home, his money, or his sense of self?  For Maxwell, as for us, anyone, innocent as they may be, might seem a threat.  His Mom and Dad, fearful that they might lose their livelihood, health care benefits, the family home, and their ability to provide, let alone survive, teach their young son trepidation.

    Mom and Dad look around the neighborhood and they see society is shifting.  People of other races, colors, and creeds are destined to overtake the white majority.  This can be nothing but trouble, or so they think.  Maxwell trusts this sentiment to be true.  The parents wonder; might immigration and  Free Trade deprive them of their life style?  In the United States, Anglo Americans react more to what they muse might be so.  However, ample evidence affirms the contrary.  A 2006 study, by the Pew Hispanic Center avows, the sudden rise in the foreign-born population does not negatively effect the employment of native-born workers.

    Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born

    By Rakesh Kochhar, Associate Director for Research

    Pew Hispanic Center

    August 10, 2006

    Rapid increases in the foreign-born population at the state level are not associated with negative effects on the employment of native-born workers, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center that examines data during the boom years of the 1990s and the downturn and recovery since 2000.

    An analysis of the relationship between growth in the foreign-born population and the employment outcomes of native-born workers revealed wide variations across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. No consistent pattern emerges to show that native-born workers suffered or benefited from increased numbers of foreign-born workers . . .

    The size of the foreign-born workforce is also unrelated to the employment prospects for native-born workers.  The relative youth and low levels of education among foreign workers also appear to have no bearing on the employment outcomes of native-born workers of similar schooling and age.

    Nevertheless, people continue to fear what is less than familiar.  Maxwell’s mother and father often speak of the immigrants.  The words voiced are unkind.  Assessments often are unrealistic.  In this country, on this globe, our apprehensions, our insecurity, the fear that we might not survive divides us.  Self-surety is issue number one.  

    When individuals do not feel as though all is fine, when distressed, emotional reactions may be exaggerated. Many persons prefer to deny that they feel distraught.  The press, the powerful, and persons who wish to be more prominent understand this.  Each is expert in the art of persuasion.  Tell us that we are doing well, that we are strong, that they will help bring certainty, security, and safety to our lives, and to our country, and we will croon along with them.

    Anxious Americans, at home and abroad, such as the parents of young Maxwell attack.  Anyone can be considered the enemy.  Bankers, big business, bureaucrats, billionaire oil magnates, migrants, and of course, mutineers of Middle Eastern descent.  Our fellow citizens are easily terrorized, if not by the persons who they think might destroy the neighborhood, or take their job, the people who crashed a plane into the Twin Towers must be a target.  Since September 11, 2001, Maxwell parents have thought it wise to protect United States shores.

    Some Americans say we must stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These persons may fear terrorists from the Persian Gulf.  There is great consternation when people do not think they are physically safe.  

    Citizens feel a greater concern when they discover the reasons we went to war are invalid.  Again, the people in this country recognize the adversary is the American Administration.  Lie by lie, the Iraq War Timeline reveals greater reason for antipathy.

    Those who cite security and survival as the primary concern proclaim, “It is the economy.”  They say, this is the number one issue Americans must address.  Too many persons, today, cannot even live paycheck to paycheck.  Disposable income, discretionary spending, savings to fall back on are luxuries of the past.  People dream of the cushion they hope to create.  Yet, in the back of their minds, they fear.  Again,  foreclosures are in the forefront in people’s minds.  Many are mired in debt.  In February 2008, another sixty percent (60%) of Americans concluded they could no longer pay the mortgage.  Mortgage Woes Boost Credit Card Debt. Balances on charge cards cannot be reconciled.

    Plastic Card Tricks

    The New York Times

    March 29, 2008

    Americans are struggling with a very rocky economy while they are also holding almost $1 trillion in credit card debt. In most cases, those cards provide a little flexibility with the monthly bills. But an increasing number of people are defaulting because of the “tricks and traps” – soaring interest rates and hidden fees – in the credit card business.

    Before more Americans get in so deep that they cannot dig out, Washington needs to change the way these companies do business to ensure that consumers are treated fairly.

    The stories about deceptive practices are harrowing. At a recent news briefing in Washington, a Chicago man told about what happened when he charged a $12,000 home repair bill in 2000 on a card with an introductory interest rate of 4.25 percent. Despite his steady, on-time payments, the rate is now nearly 25 percent. And despite paying at least $15,360, he said that he had only paid off about $800 of his original debt.

    Once more Americans are confronted with what causes great bitterness.  No one, not Congress, the companies that lend citizens cash, the corporate tycoons, or candidates can imagine why Americans might be bitter. None of these entities care enough to help the average Joe, Jane, Maxwell, or his parents.

    Why might inhabitants in this Northern continent be cynical, or feel a need to cling to religion, weapons, or hostility.  Perhaps, these sanctuaries feel  more tangible.  Faith, as an arsenal, and anger too, are at least more affordable than other options.

    Petroleum prices are also an issue of import.  Citizens cry, I now work for fuel.  Only four short month ago, oil hit $100 a barrel for the first time ever.  The rate charged for petroleum continues to climb.  Now the expense exceeds what was once unimaginable. The cost of crude is the cause.  The effect is, Mommy and Daddy do not drive much anymore.  Each trip is evaluated.  Carpools are common considerations.  Vacations are not thought vital.  Parents who had hoped to show Max the seashore this summer cannot keep the promise they made to themselves and their progeny.  Plans did not prove to be predictions.

    In 2008, the inconceivable is classified as inevitable.  Scientists share a stingy assessment.  The environment is no longer stable.  Nor are our lives on the planet Earth.  We, worldwide, have passed the point of no return.  Globally, groups and individuals pooh-pooh this determination.  For them, immediate concerns take precedence over the future.  

    The question we all inevitably ask, even if not expressed aloud, is, “Will I continue to exist?”  If so, “Will my family and I be comfortable?”  The answers shade our sense of what is right or wrong.  Maxwell hears his Mom and Dad speak of free trade.  This is another hazard that haunts them.

    The link between economic integration and worker insecurity is also an essential element of explanations for patterns of public opposition to policies aimed at further liberalization of international trade, immigration, and foreign direct investment (FDI) in advanced economies. Economic insecurity may contribute to the backlash against globalization in at least two ways.  First is a direct effect in which individuals that perceive globalization to be contributing to their own economic insecurity are much more likely to develop policy attitudes against economic integration.

    Second, if globalization limits the capacities of governments to provide social insurance, or is perceived to do so, then individuals may worry further about globalization and this effect is likely to be magnified if labor-market risks are heightened by global integration.

    It seems every issue intimidates us.  Each challenges the security we crave.  All beckon us and cause us to question whether we, Maxwell, or his parents will survive.  Our serious fears force us to believe we must separate ourselves from others, from our brothers and sisters.  In an earlier speech, echoing the words of Franklin Roosevelt, the eloquent Barack Obama spoke of this situation and how our own anxiety harms us.[ The Presidential hopeful offered solutions.

    [W]e need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all . . .

    Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.”  We do not need to recite here the history of racial [or economic] injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the [any] community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered  . . .

    Legalized discrimination . . . That history helps explain the wealth and income gap  . . . and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

    A lack of economic opportunity  . . . and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of [all] families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban [and now with “no new taxes” suburban] neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

    Potential President Obama understands and hopes to help all American realize that we are one.  While this vocalization was meant to focus on the more obvious rift between the races, the Senator from Illinois, the community organizer, attempted to advance awareness for what troubles Americans as a whole.

    In fact, a similar anger exists within [all] segments of the  . . . community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch.  They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.  They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense . . ..

    Americans, no matter the color or circumstances might contemplate that anger is “often proved counterproductive” as are resentments.  These attitudes distract attention and widen any divide.  If Americans are to find a path to understanding, we must accept that our insecurity, our fears need not distract us.  We will survive if we work as one.

    This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of [any child] black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem.  The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy . . ..

    This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics [poor and those the government classifies as affluent] who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

    This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.  This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

    This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag.  We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

    Today, we must be honest with ourselves.  We can admit that we are incensed, irritated, infuriated, and irate.  These feelings do not immobilize us.  Nor do we necessarily need to fight, and be combative.  It is time we teach Maxwell and also Maxine, distress can inspire us to dream the of impossible and make it our truth.  We, Americans can rise above our bitterness and build bridges to a fine future if we unite.

    It is not elitist to speak truth.  It is ignorance and obfuscation to deny how we feel and what we fear.  We cannot change what we do not acknowledge.  Elusion will not bring bliss.  We may be insecure; we may question whether we can survive.  Indeed, if we act as we have in the past, if we focus on our faith and antipathy, there will be no reason to hope.  Americans, divisions have distracted us for too long.  To negate our natural response is to restrict our growth.  This time citizens of the United States, let us come together.  Bitterness can become sweet.

    Sources of insecurity.  Resources for survival . . .

    How Do We Integrate The Poor Into Our Neighborhoods?

    copyright © 2008 Forgiven.  The Disputed Truth

    As someone who lives in a neighborhood going through gentrification I am often at odds with my belief that poor people need to be integrated into mixed income neighborhoods and the fact that many poor people trash the neighborhoods they live in.  We must develop a method of removing poor people from the isolation of ghetto existence, while at the same time protecting the values of the properties we relocate them to.  Unfortunately because of personal decisions, lifestyles, and circumstances many of our poorer citizens have lost either the desire or the ability to respect their environments.  Many will say that this is due to our treatment of poor people and I would not disagree with this, but this does not help in creating situations that will allow them to escape the dangers of ghetto life.

    Developers in some cities are trying to incorporate the same public housing tenants that once lived in the neighborhoods back into them after development through vouchers, subsidies, and grants.  Sometimes when poverty is multi-generational many self defeating habits may be developed, habits which make it difficult to understand the responsibilities of ownership.  I recommend that as part of the voucher and subsidy process we require recipients to attend seminars that detail the responsibilities of the members in an ownership society.  No one is inherently born knowing how to be responsible, we learn these things from our parents and our environments.  The reason many poor people are not more responsible is not because they are inherently lazy or trifling, but because no one has taught them any better.

    The redevelopment of the Arthur Capper and Carrollsburg projects, where Ms. Jackson lived, is the first in the country to promise replacement of all low-income units within the same neighborhood, said Michael Kelly, director of the city Housing Authority.

    “Mr. Kelly is undertaking a great experiment to see if he can turn around distressed neighborhoods and keep the original residents there to benefit,” said Sue Popkin, a housing expert at the Urban Institute.  “It’s a gamble.  We don’t know how to take a terrible neighborhood and make it nice while keeping the same people there.” NY Times

    In Washington DC, they are trying to integrate the former residents back into a neighborhood that has been redeveloped, they are also trying to do similar things in Atlanta.  While this is a risky undertaking it is one that I think must be attempted and allowed to succeed.  So many other cities provide the former residents with vouchers to leave their old neighborhoods.  The problem with this approach is that only certain landlords will accept the vouchers, these are usually slumlords who want to fill up crappy residences.  This only relocates the former residents into scattered pockets of poverty throughout the city, once again surrounding them with other poor residents and bad schools.  It is a difficult situation trying to incorporate former residents into the newer developments.

    I know in my city they have tried to renovate older apartments into more mixed income residences in lower income neighborhoods.  The problem is that placing a mansion next to the projects does not improve the projects or the neighborhood.  It is hard to get higher income people to move into a neighborhood with drug dealers on the corners and violence in the streets.  We have to develop a method of improving the neighborhoods and renovating them while still being able to integrate the former residents.  In DC, they have created committees comprising of residents, city officials, and developers in an effort to create ground rules for integrating the former residents back into the neighborhoods.  I think it is important to allow the residents an opportunity to take part in the decision making, if given the opportunity I believe they do not want the blight, drug dealing, and violence in their neighborhoods either.

    A committee of residents, officials and neighbors decided that any returnees with a serious criminal conviction within three years of the move-in date, and anyone with seriously bad credit, would be excluded.  They will keep their current vouchers or public units, officials promise.  NY Times

    Integrating these former residents will not be easy, but it is something as a society we must continue to do.  If we do not then we are sentencing many of our fellow citizens to a life of hopelessness and strife.  It is a thin line we walk trying to balance the opportunities of incorporating these former residents with the genuine concerns of the new residents for safety, property values, and peace.  I know for me this is a challenge that though I struggle with it, it is one that I must undertake.  We are all better off in my opinion when we are living, working, and learning in a diverse environment.  Not only do we help those who are struggling, but we also help ourselves to be better.

    Many of us believe that wrongs aren’t wrong if it’s done by nice people like ourselves.  – Author Unknown

    Reverend Martin Luther King, Pastor Jeremiah Wright, Edward Peck; Fierce Urgency of Now



    Martin Luther King, “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam”

    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

    He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.

    He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.


    ~ Martin Luther King, Junior

    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

    ~ Martin Luther King, Junior.

    Days from now America will commemorate an anniversary.  On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Junior was brutally assassinated.  Citizens will recall the wisdom of a man who lived for peace and yet, fell victim to violence.  Homage will be bestowed.  The American people will praise the preacher, the teacher, and the man who taught us all to speak of what remained tacit for too long.  In the United States of America, all men are not equal.  As a country, we do not treat people well.  Nor do government officials lead us to the promised light of world harmony.

    Reverend Martin Luther King spoke of the sorrow that Americans gives rise to throughout the globe.  However, most recall only portions of his homilies.  In memorial, people do as is characteristic.  They remember the platitudes oft repeated and conveniently forget the profound angst expressed.

    “I have a dream,” is imprinted on the minds of most Americans.  The words ring out.  They are spelled out in historical accounts that focus on achievements.  Anglo Americans believe in this the “land of the free” we have accomplished much.  Perhaps, the mission is complete.  Caucasians remind themselves of what they believe is infinite progress.  Yet, those who experience the nightmare that lives large in their day-to-day experience recall another statement the Reverend made.  

    As Doctor Martin Luther King Junior reflected upon what was and what might have been he saw the gains were never fully realized.  As an imminent war evolved into an extended and bloody encounter the Preacher proclaimed . . .

    [M]y fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents . . .

    There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam [Afghanistan, Iraq, name of war or incident you choose] and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America.  A few years ago, there was a shining moment in that struggle.  It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program.  There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings.  Then came the buildup in Vietnam [insert the name of another battle] and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.  So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

    Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home.  It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population.

    We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.  So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.  So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit.

    Martin Luther King, advocate of nonviolence and peace witnessed that America had not truly come together to bring about racial harmony.  Persons with darker skin tones were called to combat in numbers that far exceeded the percent evident in the population at-large.  King understood classes were not integrated.  The divide between the rich and the poor had not been eliminated.  Indeed, the evidence of this was prominent in the Corps.

    Reverend King felt as many Americans did, particularly those most profoundly affected by policies and practices that remained unchanged.  The impoverished, those who have fewer opportunities in a nation forever fractured, are asked to fight for the rights they do not realize.  The underprivileged, the deprived, those reduced to ruin are expected to serve a nation that does not provide for them.  Doctor King declared on April 4, 1967 before a Riverside Church congregation . . .

    I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.  My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers.  As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems.  I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.  But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam [Iraq, Afghanistan, or perhaps Iran, Korea . . .]?

    They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted.  Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.  For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

    The Reverend Martin Luther King, a year to the day before his demise felt it was time to speak to the injustices he saw within his own nation and  how the approach of the Administration circumvented attempts to reach the mountaintop known as tranquility.  For too long, too many, Doctor King among them, had remained silent.  Americans accepted truths, for talk of what is real was thought taboo.  No one wishes to defame the land they call home.  However, reluctantly, as Reverend King acknowledged . . .

    “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam [September 11, 2001, wars in Afghanistan . . .]

    The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world.  Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

    Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

    Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.  In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

    I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation.

    Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King felt he must address an issue that remains stalwart.  Today, the situation has not changed, much to the contrary of claims among Caucasians and the affluent.

    Regardless of the principles presented in the Constitution, in this country Black Americans are not free.  However, those whose skin is dark are asked to defend Anglo Americans from supposed enemies, and they do.  People whose complexions are purplish-brown fill the battlefields; they patriotically serve the homeland.  Frequently, too frequently, African-Americans, who were never fully accepted in their native country fall.  Before they ever experience what has long been a dream, equality, Black Americans perish.  In a desire to protect the freedoms they have never had, our Black and Brown brethren pass.

    Anglo Americans know this; yet do not wish to acknowledge what is true.  Instead, Caucasians criticize anyone who might mention what is fact.  Recently, Reverend Jeremiah Wright has been the source of scorn.  Wright dared to deliver a sermon, which addressed the issue of inequity.

    After the September 11, 2001, tragedy, Americans again chose the path of war.  African-Americans were once more called to battle.  The then Pastor of United Trinity Church of Christ, Chicago, Illinois Jeremiah Wright was distressed about what he saw as a shame.  In a nation founded on the noble principle of freedom, people of color were not.

    Reverend Wright spoke of his anguish.  Yet, few outside the congregation heard more than a minute of what was said.  Anglo-Americans not in attendance assumed they knew the essence of the message, although they had not read the text.  The pinkish people, pale of skin did not realize he Reverend quoted the words of a white man, an United States Ambassador to Iraq, and Deputy Director of President Ronald Reagan’s task force on terrorism, Edward Peck.  Anglos did not realize that words and thoughts Jeremiah Wright discussed were those of a white man who believed America’s foreign policy was the cause for the calamity that placed this nation in peril.

    Nor did the masses and classes, those not subject to racism reflect on how the words Wright offered were similar to those of another leader, one often honored as a Saint might be.  White Christians and Jews forever forgiving did not consider that Reverend Wright quoted the sentiments of a white man, a right-winged Republican official, a man who served with the esteemed Ronald Reagan in his sermon. Pray tell, might we consider the full text of Jeremiah Wright’s homily.

    “I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”

    “We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.

    “We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.

    “We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

    “We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.

    “We bombed Qaddafi’s home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against the rock.

    “We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they’d never get back home.

    “We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.

    “Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.

    “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.

    “Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don’t have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that.”

    Indeed, Anglo Americans must come to terms with the turmoil those who claim to be free of judgment, and ready to forgive, have done to destroy the likes of a passionate preacher and a Presidential aspirant. Pinkish people in the “United” States need to ponder the power of punitive pronouncements.  We, the white people must wonder, in what way we resemble the Almighty when we slam and damn our brethren and banish him from our hearts.

    Currently, Caucasians claim to be colorblind.  Indeed, Anglos are merely colormute.  Anglo American citizens call for patriotism.  In truth, jingoism justifies the combat that benefits the affluent and the pinkish Americans who administer the Armed Forces.  Military missions are a show of might, in the name of right.  Actually, fear of our fellow man leads us to fight against those whose appearance differs from ours, whose ideology does not reassure us.  Anglo Americans may cry, “We honor the soldiers and support the troops.”  In truth, in a show of love, we lead our dark complexioned young and our poor persons of all colors to their death.  Anglos and affluent individuals might realize as Reverend Jeremiah Wright did, “This is a time for self-examination.”  “This was a time for me to examine my own relationship with G-d [or whatever force brings personal enlightenment to you.]”  If America is to change, to progress to become a nation of equals, perchance, pale persons might ponder the words of the honorable Martin Luther King Junior and remember.

    A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

    This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

    Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil.

    Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.” We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity . . .

    We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam [Afghanistan, Iraq, name of war or incident you choose] and justice throughout the developing world — a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

    Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter — but beautiful — struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

    Anglos and the affluent, your actions, reactions determine our future.  Will we be separate and unequal or join as one.  Can we continue in silence, pretend to be colorblind, and remain colormute?  The time is now.  The import is intense.  We must speak of the pain and plight of the impoverished.  It is vital that each of us ask ourselves and our brethren to reflect on what is too real for those who are less privileged, or for people of color.

    If we are to be united within the States, if we are to work as a world, one in harmony then we must all heed the words of our Pastor’s, Doctor Martin Luther King Junior and the Reverend Doctor Jeremiah Wright.  Let us not demonize those who speak of love and fellowship.  Might the white people in their wondrous glory forgive those who did not trespass, but spoke the truth that haunts those who remain silent.

    “Before passing judgment on the man,

    please consider that a good sermon is a conversation between three partners:

    scripture, a preacher, and his or her congregation.

    A church member’s belief functions like a blade.

    It is in the dynamic interchange between the two,

    often in the resulting sparks and tension, that a keen and sharp faith can develop.”


    ~ Reverend Matt Fitzgerald. Senior Minister, Wellesley Hills Congregational Church.  [Caucasian Cleric who worked with Reverend Jeremiah Wright]



    FOX Lies!! The real sermon given by Pastor Wright

    Homilies, Sermons, Sources . . .

    Why Do We Hate Poor People?

    copyright © 2008 Forgiven. The Disputed Truth

    Why is it that when we encounter poor or homeless people they make us cringe? Why do we want to make them disappear into shelters or remove them out of our sights? Since the Reagan revolution we have instead of being at war against poverty, we have been at war with poor people. They litter our streets like so many abandoned cars at a salvage yard. Why has it been so easy to sell the false narrative that people are poor by choice and that if they would just work harder they wouldn’t be poor? I think that our reactions to the poor says more about who we are than who they are. Let’s face it there have been poor people throughout recorded history, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is not that there are poor people, but that there are poor people we could help and don’t.

    The reason I think we hate poor people is that rather than reminding of us of the blessings we have received, they instead remind us of our vulnerabilities and our insecurities. They remind so many of us that we are only one missed paycheck or one serious health issue away from their lot and it scares the hell out of us. We need so badly to believe that this could never happen to us, that we are so insulated from them and their fate that it could never be our fate. When the reality is too frightening to consider we create these illusions to placate ourselves. The greatest illusion is that we live in a society that if anyone is willing to work hard enough they can overcome the poverty of their birth. We regale ourselves with these fables of rags to riches, never considering the reality of these tales. The reality is a far cry from the false narratives being maintained by those who would keep us ignorant of the truth.

    We are constantly fed the fairy-tale of the poor kid who signs a million-dollar sports contract, the million-dollar recording contract, or the Ivy League scholarship. And for those who have desires that steer towards more iniquitous pursuits we even have the “gangster” or drug dealer chronicles. In other words there is money and wealth to be had by all except the most slothful of our fellow citizens. How prevalent are these scenarios in modern America? The truth is that very little has changed for poor people, the majority of children born into poverty will remain in poverty. How can they not? They are provided with in many cases inferior homes, schools, and sometimes parents. The deck is stacked against them from the moment they take their first breath.

    Sure we occasionally give a few dollars here and there with moral superiority and discuss how unfortunate those people are. All the while hoping they would just disappear and not remind us of how tenuous our hold on the American Dream is. Not only do they remind us of our perilous situations they also remind us of our conspicuous consumption and how truly far we have bought and sold the lie of more is better. The truth of this is in the fact that many of us believe that today’s poor are not really poor. We look at poverty in the third world and convince ourselves that those are truly poor people, the ones here are just whiners.

    Robert Rector, a Senior Fellow at Heritage and a leading force behind welfare reform, similarly argued that federal studies should highlight the consumption-rather than income-of impoverished households. Many poor families do not record ‘gray area’ earnings because the federal wage threshold provides a disincentive to report joint income or informal earnings. Also, purchasing power varies across metropolitan, suburban, and rural communities. Rector’s study, which utilizes data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, demonstrates that many allegedly impoverished households live in decent-to-comfortable conditions, making poverty somewhat different from John Edwards’ “terrible condition struggling against incredible poverty.”

    Rector’s report shows that the “typical,” median poor household owns a car, air-conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a washer and dryer, a microwave, two color televisions, cable or satellite television, a vcr or dvd player, and a stereo. The typical poor family’s house is in good repair and the family is able to afford both food and medical care throughout the year.

    With living standards such as these, poverty in America may actually be an enviable state compared to living standards in other nations. According to the Census Bureau, 15.2% of immigrants live in poverty, whereas only 11.9% of natives are below the poverty threshold. Rector claims that 1 in 10 of immigrants in poverty is likely an illegal immigrant, but estimates remain vague; the U.S. census declines to ask immigrant responders whether they have documentation. Heritage Organization

    So being poor in America is an enviable state? The Bible says, “Blessed is the poor”. How many of us actually drive by a poor neighborhood or a homeless person and say, “Boy, those folks are really lucky”? I wonder if the author of that report is willing to exchange places with one of these lucky poor people? The reason we need to deny their pain and hopelessness is so we can deny our greed. If poor people aren’t really poor, then I am not actually consuming too much. The world is made up of balances, there is only so many of anything. In order for someone to have more, someone has to have less. We assuage our guilt at ignoring their plight by criminalizing them or demonizing them. We don’t want them around us or bothering us. The thing I don’t like about poor people is that they are so needy. They are always asking for stuff.

    We hate them because of what they tell us about ourselves and our lives. How we can live in a country that thinks nothing of spending over 700 billion for wars and war machinery, billions in corporate welfare, and every year we cut programs to help the poor. They don’t need early childhood intervention, better schools, or financial assistance. What they need is a swift kick in the butt to get them motivated. It’s no wonder that children born poor suffer from stress related brain trauma. Despite popular opinion being poor even as a child is stressful. We bombard the airwaves with these images of consumption, we tell our children you are not cool, hip, or anybody if you don’t wear these shoes, these clothes, or have these things. Then we act surprised by their actions to get them and call them animals and lock them up. And we’re the civilized ones. There, but for the grace of God, goes I.

    Many of us believe that wrongs aren’t wrong if it’s done by nice people like ourselves.  – Author Unknown

    On Justice, Part 2

    copyright © 2008. Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

    Justice,

    the moral principle determining just conduct

    is an elusive part of world philosophy.  What represents justice for one person may be unacceptable to another.  We humans have a marked tendency to disagree among ourselves these days as much as ever before.  Frederick Douglass put the issue into fine perspective for me in his words

    Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

    An earlier diary of mine spoke to justice in the United States today.  This writing continues the line of thinking as my mind continues to ponder and to clarify the ideas.  Follow over the fold for more of the possum’s philosophy of life.

    Douglass’ words tell me justice is all about a level playing field upon which all members of society are treated in a fair and equal manner.  In this circumstance all have an opportunity to earn enough money to support a family.  The living wage proposition is embedded in my interpretation of Douglass’ words.  Then poverty would be eliminated.  There would be no division of peoples into classes according to major discrepancies in income.  There would still be the rich and the poor, but abject poverty that drives people from home and sustenance would be eliminated.

    Douglass also addresses education in a meaningful way.  We as a nation must allow all our children full and equal access to education if we are to survive the trials of the 21st Century.  We must begin to invest money and energy into our educational system.  The infrastructure needs serious attention.  Teachers need support from both the government and from society as a whole.  Every person in the nation has a vested interest in the education of our children for they are the leaders of our future.  Without proper education our future may fall into the purview of ignorance and superstition.  We cannot afford a course of that sort ever if we are to survive as a nation.

    Douglass addresses the idea of a divided society in terms of class.  Some nations around the world have such divisions based on birthright or religion.  No nation can expect to survive forever in such a situation.  All divisions that pit one person against another in class struggles based upon money or privilege need to be put to an end.  We humans are all of one kind.  We must work together in the best ways we are able to find in order to better our tomorrows.

    Justice may best be defined within each person as an individual.  Justice is a comfortable feeling of doing what is right both for one’s self and for others with whom one interacts.  In olden days justice was defined as

    an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth

    I propose we leave that definition behind and look more to principles of fairness and equality.

    I am one of the blessed in this nation today.  My life has been successful beyond any dreams that ever came my way.  I have along the way faced our justice system in a legal hearing one time but in no other ways.  I am allowed to live in relative peace without the pressures of poverty or housing restriction.  My family is well fed.  We do not suffer

    food insecurity

    as our administration wishes to frame hunger these days.  Justice in my household is all about treating one another and those around us the way we wish to be treated every minute of every day of our lives.

    Justice should be about seeing to the needs of others.  Justice is reaching out a hand to those in need.  Justice is seeing those people sleeping under a bridge find a warm shelter.  Justice works to see every person in this great nation has shelter at night and those who wish to do so may have a chance to own affordable housing in a safe and comfortable neighborhood.  Justice works to punish those guilty of behaving in ways that damage the rights of others.  Justice is blind to sex or color of skin.  Justice is for one and all human beings without restriction.

    Let us all work today and every day to bring justice to our nation.  Our Founding Fathers saw the light and built a country of the people, by the people, and for the people.  We today have the responsibility of carrying forward that message with liberty and justice for one and all.  We have not one minute to lose.  Only by our actions may we hope to see justice restored and maintained.  Those who fail to work for a just world stand to lose the most precious of all human commodities.

    An extension of the current thinking has to do with proper leadership to accomplish the goal of bringing justice to the world.  That is a more complex subject requiring time and space of its own one day.  Much of justice is all about accountability, another subject deserving a discussion of its own.  There is much in this world today about which to reflect in questioning and in refining one’s thinking.  

    Race Relations in America; Colormute, Not Colorblind

    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

    It’s never been my interest to run a race-based campaign.

    My message has always been that I want everyone included in a broad coalition to bring about change.

    I want to spend more time talking about solving the problems that people are feeling right now.


    ~ Barack Obama [United States Senator and Presidential Aspirant.  January 27, 2008]

    In any Presidential election year, we hear of the race.  Yet, discussions of “race” are void, or are since a truce was tendered.  Americas would like to think of themselves as colorblind.  We are not.  Citizens of this country embrace “colormuteness, a term coined by Mica Pollock, Associate Professor of Education at Harvard University.  What Professor Pollock observes in classrooms and in the hallways of schools throughout the nation occurs each day on the campaign trail.  Children who wish to achieve excellence in the classroom are restricted by conventions they learned at an early age in our nation’s communities.

    When a young Caucasian child encounters a Black being, if they have never seen a person with a dark complexion, he or she may point, tug at the a parent’s trouser, point, and say, “Mom, Why is his skin so brown?”  A lass might inquisitively exclaim, “Daddy, What is wrong with her complexion?  Characteristically, Mother or Father will say, “Shush!  It is not polite to point.”  Then the parent will pass on the message that they learned at their parent’s knee.  That communication will vary dependent on the family.  Nonetheless, what is true, no matter who the guardian might be, the tone will be hushed.  The tot will learn, we do not discuss the differences in skin tone or facial features.

    What we were taught in our youth resonates in adult life.  We see it on the campaign trail.  Certain topics are acceptable and the one is forbidden.  This etiquette is evident in our most recent election.  Criticism is fine, as long as we do not broach the single most sensitive subject, “race,” as it relates to the color of one’s skin.

    Candidates compete as they sprint towards the White House.  They rack up the votes, and rail against their rivals.  As Presidential hopefuls run for the Oval Office, they find themselves embroiled in discordant campaigns.  Whatever they might say, the electorate will react.  A delicate balance must be maintained.

    Attack advertisements will fill the airwaves.  Hurdles will be jumped in an attempt to make an opponent look or sound bad.  The war veteran is no hero, and the soldier who stayed behind did not truly serve.  In cyberspace, the calculations are conventional.  The conversation can be extremely cruel.  Religion will rule if he or she becomes President.  His or her faith is not “right.”  His wife, her husband is [fill in the blank.]  Can a damsel deliver as Commander-In-Chief, or will a drama result in her distress.  However, the question that is addressed tentatively is, “Is America ready for a Black President?”  

    Americans are intimately familiar with the scandals.  Constituents have witnessed what a little gossip can do.  Within each campaign, people observe divisiveness.  The demise of a fellow Democrat is fine.  A rival Republican can ridicule another with reason.  All is fair in love and war.  While an aspirant may be fond of Party loyalty, in a Presidential campaign, faithfulness and friendship are not generously applied to adversaries.  It is important to focus on differences if a candidate wishes to be the nominee for his or her Party, as long as the variation in skin color  is not mentioned.

    Our countrymen think it vital to understand Mitt Romney is a Mormon.  The public believes it is important to contemplate, Mike Huckabee is a Preacher.  It is grand that Hillary Clinton is a woman, but do we need to say aloud, Barack Obama is Black.  

    Sure, the words are said and the response is consistent.  “It should not make a difference.”  Yet, it does.  No one wishes to be labeled a bigot.  As adults, individuals recall what their parents said, “African-Americans are people too,” or one would hope they were thought to be in the United States.  Still, each citizen of this country understands, Black people fight for parity.  Even when conditions and circumstances improve for African-Americans, a few thrive, most struggle to survive.

    Our Constitution claims “all men are created equal.”  However, in the States it seems that has never been the case.  While Americans are proud of the fact that finally they can choose to vote for someone who is not white, they do not wish to speak of “race,” only of the race.  Ah, how well-trained Americans are.

    Supposedly, citizens have progressed beyond our repressive roots.  However, in truth, racism is rampant.  Just as Americans have done in past Presidential election years, and do each day of our existence, we place one “race” above another.

    Being Black in the United States is a topic discussed among those who are, and balked at by persons who rather believe themselves without bias.  Carefully colormuted Caucasians do not wish to admit that that the sight of a dark skinned person can cause them to tightly clutch the pocketbook that hung loosely at their side.  Anglos do not wish to confess that they feel an the urge to clench a fist, or place keys between their fingers, just in case they need to use the pieces of metal as a weapon when in the presence of a person whose complexion is a purplish-brown.  

    Few white individuals will tell of how they tremble when near an African-American stranger.  Fortunately, many need not think of what they might do if a Black individual was near.  In the United States, numerous neighborhoods are segregated, sometimes subtly, often overtly.

    “Is it true that “Anna” stands for “Ain’t No N*gg*rs Allowed?”  I asked at the convenience store in Anna, Illinois, where I had stopped to buy coffee.

    “Yes,” the clerk replied.  “That’s sad, isn’t it,” she added, distancing herself from the policy.  And she went on to assure me, “That all happened a long time ago.”

    “I understand [racial exclusion] is still going on?”  I asked.

    “Yes,” she replied.  “That’s sad.”

    ~ conversation with clerk, Anna, Illinois, October, 2001

    Anna is a town of about 7,000 people, including adjoining Jonesboro.  The twin towns lie about 35 miles north of Cairo, in Southern Illinois.  In 1909, in the aftermath of a horrific nearby “spectacle lynching,” Anna and Jonesboro expelled their African Americans.  Both cities have been all-white ever since.  Nearly a century later, “Anna” is still considered by its residents and by citizens of nearby towns to mean “Ain’t No N*gge*s Allowed,” the acronym the convenience store clerk confirmed in 2001.

    It is common knowledge that African Americans are not allowed to live in Anna, except for residents of the state mental hospital and transients at its two motels.  African Americans who find themselves in Anna and Jonesboro after dark – the majority-black basketball team from Cairo, for example – have been treated badly by residents of the towns and by fans and students of Anna-Jonesboro High School.

    Towns like Anna and Jonesboro are often called “sundown towns,” owing to the signs that many of them formerly sported at their corporate limits – signs that usually said, “N*gge*r, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On You In __.”  Anna-Jonesboro had such signs on Highway 127 as recently as the 1970s.  In some areas, these communities were known as “sunset towns” and, in the Ozarks, “gray towns.”  In the East, although many communities excluded African Americans, the term “sundown town” itself was rarely used.  Residents of all-white suburbs also usually avoided the term, though not the policy. . .

    The overlooking of sundown towns, stands in sharp contrast to the attention bestowed upon that other violent and extralegal race relations practice, lynching.  The literature on lynching is vast, encompassing at least 500 and perhaps thousands of volumes; at this point, we have at least one book for every ten confirmed lynchings.  Still the books keep coming; Amazon.com listed 126 for sale in 2004.

    Yet, lynchings have ceased in America.  Sundown towns, on the other hand, continue to this day.

    Nonetheless, the threat of such an act looms large in the United States.  In the enlightened era of the Twenty-First century, Americans have discussed or dismissed the appearance of nooses throughout our homeland.  More than a year passed before the mainstream media reported on the appearance of three nooses hung on a tree in Jena, Louisiana.  Naturally, the incident was said to be a Southern phenomenon.  However, weeks after a march on the city, in support of Civil Rights, another hangman’s rope was displayed on the office door of a Black faculty member at the Teachers College at Columbia University.  At a prestigious, Northern educational institution of higher learning, Americans were subject to lessons from the past.  In this nation, Blacks, regardless of their economic status, or social stature are not safe; nor are they respected as peers.

    Granted, the goodly among us will state as Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University, declared, “This is an assault on African-Americans and therefore it is an assault on every one of us;” however, unless we speak of the unmentionable, those not victim to an attack, cannot imagine the wounds.  Niceties do not heal the invisible and deep scars.  Wounds are easily opened for they were never attended to.  Colorblind as Caucasians allege to be, they are not cured of the ills of prejudice.

    Only weeks ago, Americans again observed how easily we move from the topic of racial discrimination to decrees of settlement.  No harm done, no words of division will be uttered.  The offender and the offended do not discuss inequity, injustice, insults, and intolerance; the reality of race relations is left behind.  School grounds, the campaign scene, and the world of sports are as the streets of America, battlegrounds for bigotry.  Yet, in each of these venues, participants replace the actual topic with another.  Apologies suffice.  Our parents would be proud.  Americans can admit when they are wrong and move on, or pretend to.

    When Golf Channel commentator Kelly Tilghman joked on-air during the second round of the Mercedes-Benz Championship that ambitious young players should “lynch (Tiger Woods) in a back alley,” she set off yet another incidence of the stagecraft that passes for racial discourse in this country, with a tragic moment followed by the requisite scenes of accusation, remorse and demands for the protagonist’s head, all backed by a chorus of conflicting voices echoing to the rafters.

    There were plenty of soliloquies but distressingly little dialogue and no catharsis.  For her part Tilghman was held accountable through a public scolding by the punditocracy and a two-week suspension by her employer; but for me, there’s another, far more interesting character in this drama – Tiger Woods. . . .

    Whether Woods likes it or not, the episode serves to remind him, and everyone else, that regardless of how he attempts to transcend race with his accomplishments on the golf course, he can never fully escape his status as a person of color.

    Much the way the fried-chicken-and-collard-greens joke Fuzzy Zoeller made at the 1997 Masters pushed Woods into the role of African-American Golfer, Tilghman’s gaffe reinforces his heritage and its burdens, lumping Tiger in with the estimated 5,000 men who were lynched in America between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s. . . .

    For his part Tiger was quick to forgive and forget, saying through his agent, Mark Steinberg, that the incident was a “nonissue” and later releasing a statement that said, “Regardless of the choice of words used, we know unequivocally that there was no ill intent in her comments.”

    Rarely does the individual who delivers a racist epithet mean to offend.  The child who points does not intend to hurt someone’s feelings.  The parent who speaks in hushed tones purposely attempts not to insult.  For those raised in a world where in the privacy of a home, unkind comments in reference to people of color abound, such assertions seem sound.  Empathy escapes those who are not victim to the wrath of whites.  

    Anglos do not understand how a seemingly innocent statement can slice an African-American  to the core.  

    To suggest that a successful Black man might need to be put in his place, or lynched, is to acknowledge a truth that is always apparent to an African-American gentleman or lady.  A dark-brown-complexioned person who is perceived as one who does not know his or her station can expect to be reminded regularly, he or she is not equal to whites.  

    Decidedly, a dark-skin man or woman may do well in school or in the work place.  A gentleman or a lovely lady may excel beyond all belief.  A few elite Afro-Americans might be invited to live among Caucasians in an all white neighborhood, even in a Sundown Town.  A token or two is always welcome.  One with fame, fortune, and finesse may actually be appreciated.  After all, a community must make a good impression.  No locality would wish to be labeled intolerant, just as a parent, or child, does not desire to discriminate aloud.  Consider cities in the Northern region of the United States.  These humble townships have long maintained a noble image, false as it maybe.

    Outside the traditional South-states historically dominated by slavery, where sundown towns are rare-probably a majority of all incorporated places kept out African Americans. . . .

    Ironically, the traditional South has almost no sundown towns.  Mississippi, for instance, has no more than 6, mostly mere hamlets, while Illinois has no fewer than 456.

    Appearances are a lovely illusion.  Indeed, the presence of a Black person in a white world can be wrought with peril.  Driving While Black is a common crime. Even so, in an automobile, there is some protection for the brownish-purple complexioned person passing through a predominantly Anglo section of town.  If a Black man, or women, were to walk alone in an alley, in an affluent area, or in a slum, unaccompanied by an entourage, his or her life could be in danger.  Tiger Woods, [Michel Jordan, Denzel Washington, Venus and Serena Williams,] in casual clothes, without the cameras, or a gold plated golf club to identify him, could easily become a casualty of racial chauvinism.  Anglos, when alone or amongst an allied group of racists, are not colorblind.  Nor are they colormuted.  Whites will see, and say, as they truly believe.  Indeed, if a successful man or woman, whose facial features, and color, are not characteristic of a Caucasian, they may well find themselves in a position to be attacked.  In all likelihood, a Black person will be assaulted.  

    At times, the barbs will be verbal.  On occasion, physical jabs will be offered.  Perchance, a Black person may suffer a slight.  Most who react to ‘race’ are subtle in their approach.  However, it is rare when a white American does not express the bias that has been building for centuries sooner or later.  What simmers and stews within eventually will come to a boil.  The pain that hate gives rise to will spill out.  As a culture, when we pretend to be colorblind, and act on colormutedness, we give no air to what is real.  Racism has caused us to rot from within.

    Intellectually, Anglos know that to diminish the worth of those whose complexion is a brownish-black, to scorn or snub an African-American merely because their appearance is considered less “acceptable,” or to suggest that someone of color might be lynched is outrageous.  Yet, as long as Americans refuse to acknowledged the roots of racism, and recognize their own bigotry, intolerance will flourish.  If conversations are hushed, as they have been in this year alone, what we have witnessed will continue to burgeon.

    Within days of the Tilghman incident, Golf Week Magazine glorified the schism.  The sportscaster and her employer were the cover story or were meant to be.  So much for these intentions, be they ill-willed or wise.

    Golfweek Noose Elicits Strong Reaction

    By Doug Ferguson

    The Associated Press

    Friday, January 18, 2008; 12:18 AM

    The editor of Golfweek magazine said he was overwhelmed by negative reaction to the photo of a noose on the cover of this week’s issue, illustrating a story about the suspension of a Golf Channel anchor for using the word “lynch” in an on-air discussion about how to beat Tiger Woods.

    “We knew that image would grab attention, but I didn’t anticipate the enormity of it,” Dave Seanor, vice president and editor of the weekly magazine, said from the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla. . . .

    “Look at the executive suites at the PGA Tour, or the USGA, or the PGA of America. There are very, very few people of color there,” he said.  “This is a situation in golf where there needs to be more dialogue. And when you get more dialogue, people don’t want to hear it, and they brush it under the rug. This is a source of a lot of pushback.” . . .

    Asked if he regretted the cover, Seanor paused before answering.

    “I wish we could have come up with something that made the same statement but didn’t create as much negative reaction,” he said.  “But as this has unfolded, I’m glad there’s dialogue.  Let’s talk about this, and the lack of diversity in golf.”

    Golfweek Editor Seanor may have thought the conversation vital; however, the mainstream, the average Joe and Joanna, the persons in power, and those who have none, would rather not discuss the disparity that envelops us.  Remember, etiquette is essential.  Colormuteness and colorblindness are cool.  Those who do not heed these calls are not.  Editor, Dave Seanor was replaced one day after a racially insensitive graphic, a noose, ‘graced’ the cover of Golfweek.

    Any lack of compassion, when public, can cause quite a controversy.  When the same deficit is subtle, there are few problems, that is, if the offender’s skin is pinkish in color.  This contrast is sharply evident in this election season, just as it was in Elementary School.  Our Presidential candidates and political Parties, like Mom and Dad, endorse colorblindness and colormuteness.  The electorate embraces a truce that prohibits colorful conversations.  

    When race relations are discussed, the Democrats wish to appear more compassionate than the Conservatives.  While it may be a tad true that the Democrats did better for Black America than the Republicans have, still, every Administration since America became a nation, did not authentically embrace equality.  The statistics, even when improvement is apparent, reveal an awful truth.

    The Conservative Agenda: Serving African Americans?

    By Tim Westrich and Amanda Logan

    Center For American Progress

    January 17, 2008

    How have African Americans fared since conservatives have been in charge of the economy? Not very well.  Their increases across key economic indicators have been slower under Bush as compared to the 1990s.  Here’s a look at the numbers:

    African Americans’ median income declined by an average of 1.6 percent per year under the current administration.

    In 2006, African Americans’ median income was $32,132, which is actually $2,603 lower than their median income of $34,735 (in 2006 dollars) in 2000. This is an annualized average growth rate of -1.6 percent. In contrast, this number increased at an annual average growth rate of 3.2 percent from 1992 to 2000. And African Americans’ median income is still substantially lower than Whites: In 2006, their median income was $32,132, as compared to $52,432 for Whites.

    Under Bush, the percent of African Americans without health insurance has increased from 18.5 percent to 20.5 percent.

    In 2006, 7.9 million African Americans were not covered by health insurance. The rate of African Americans not covered by health insurance increased by an annual average percent point change of 0.30 between 2000 and 2006. This is a much different picture compared to the 1990s. From 1992 to 2000, the number of uninsured African Americans decreased from 20.1 percent to 18.5 percent, an average annual percent point change of -0.20.

    The employment to population ratio for African Americans has declined faster than that of the Whites under the current administration.

    In 2007, the employment to population ratio – the percentage of the civilian population that is employed-for African Americans stood at 58.4 percent compared to 63.6 percent for white Americans. Between 2000 and 2006, the employment to population ratio for African Americans declined by an average of – 0.4 percent each year after increasing by 0.8 percent on average between 1992 and 2000.  The employed share of the African-American population grew faster than the employed share of the White population throughout the 1990s, but has shrunk faster than Whites since then.

    The increase in African-American homeownership has been slower under Bush than the 1990s.

    The homeownership rate for Whites increased three times faster than the homeownership rate for African Americans between 2000 and 2006. During this time, the homeownership rate for African Americans increased by an average annual growth rate of just 0.1, from 47.2 percent to 47.9 percent, whereas Whites’ homeownership rate increased by an average annual growth rate of 0.3 percent. This trend is in part because African Americans have actually seen their rate decline since 2004. Compare this to the 1990s, when African Americans’ homeownership rate increased by an average annual growth rate of 0.8 percent from 1994 to 2000. Whites’ rate was 0.6 percent during this time (homeownership data by race are not available before 1994).

    More African Americans are in poverty under Bush.

    More African Americans were in poverty in 2006 than in 2000, just after we saw a vast improvement the 1990s. In 2006, 24.2 percent of African-American individuals were in poverty. Compare this to 2000, when 22.5 percent were below the poverty line, a percentage point change of 0.28. Poverty among African Americans decreased substantially from 1992 to 2000, going from 33.4 percent to 22.5 percent, or an annual average percent point change of -1.36.

    The number of impoverished persons of color frequently increases.  At times, it decreases.  On occasion, it remains the same.  Yet, no matter who is in the Oval Office, Americans worry less about the fact that the dark skinned among us are more likely to live in poorer neighborhoods.  African-Americans are less likely to have adequate Health Care.  Doctors discriminate.

    Schools are segregated along racial lines.  Citizens of this country understand that a person who lives on the wrong side of the railroad tracks is probably Black.  Sundown Towns may have begun to allow Afro-Americans in; however, these persons better realize, they have their place.  Dark-skin people are encouraged to believe they are powerless to create genuine change, and Anglo Americans like it that way.

    There was hardly a rumble when the former First Lady, and Presidential aspirant explained, “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Clinton continued. “It took a president to get it done.”  This statement seemed reasonable to those who have deterred the dreams within the Black community.  Rival candidate, and Senator Obama softly declared the comment “unfortunate and ill-advised”; nonetheless, he too was willing to remain colorblind and colormute.  A Black person knows better than to incite a riot.  African-Americans, in the childhood are taught as well as whites.

    In this country, citizens of all colors accept the truth and dare not drastically change it.  It is for this reason the electorate is barely disturbed by statements from a former President, his aides, or allies.  Even prominent Black Americans, grateful for small favors, and Presidential appointments, will stand by the side of a spouse and a former Commander-In-Chief when he states bigotry is believable and logical.

    Voting for president along racial and gender lines “is understandable because people are proud when someone who they identify with emerges for the first time,” the former president told a Charleston audience while campaigning for his wife. . . .

    Bill Clinton said civil rights leaders Andrew Young and John Lewis have defended his wife.  “They both said that Hillary was right, and the people who attacked her were wrong, and that she did not play the race card, but they did,” he said. . . .

    Clinton also told about 100 people in Charleston that he was proud of the Democratic Party for having a woman and a black candidate.

    For the former President, colorblindness and colormuteness helped to heal a division that he now justifies.  In America, racism, and chauvinism, are not only acceptable, these characteristics are considered a source of pride, and not a sign of prejudice.  Americans would rather be smug [and self-important] than address the sad fact people are not treated equally.  

    However, the message is mixed.  On one hand, the Clintons are prideful of the support they receive from the African-American population.  On the other, the two Clinton’s conclude Blacks will automatically congregate around their brethren.  When people do not admit to the color they see and will not hear of it, there is ample confusion.

    The puzzlement continues.  As votes are tallied, the temptation is to discount a rival’s win, or blame it on the color barrier, the one that supposedly does, or is it, does not exist.  When a Presidential aspirant or her husband speaks of the race [to the White House], the implicit untouchable topic of “race,” is tenderly tackled.

    In Charleston [South Carolina, during the 2008 primaries] last week, Bill Clinton said, “They are getting votes, to be sure, because of their race or gender, and that’s why people tell me that Hillary doesn’t have a chance of winning here.”

    Again, Americans must decide, does a person’s race make a difference?  Can people of color perform miracles as an Anglo might? In this country, we still argue whether we have seen this occur in the past.

    Hillary Clinton reminds white Americans of the accepted wisdom, even a great and honorable Black leader, such as Reverend, Doctor Martin Luther King Junior could not “get the job done.”  This prominent person of color needed the white man [or woman] in the White House to achieve what had never been accomplished before.  Senator Clinton’s words help cultivate the belief, a Caucasian, has the power to change the nation or make dreams come true.  Americans cannot know with certainty if this is true for even as some select Black persons climb, the old adage is reinforced.

    “Race doesn’t matter!” the crowd at Obama’s victory celebration in Columbia chanted last night, and when he spoke, the senator elaborated on the theme.  He said his victory disproved those who argue that people “think, act and even vote within the categories that supposedly define us” — that blacks will not vote for a white candidate and vice versa.

    “I did not travel around this state and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina.  I saw South Carolina,” he said.  The election, he said, “is not about rich versus poor or young versus old, and it’s not about black versus white. This election is about the past versus the future.”

    Americans wonder what will the future bring.  Can the United States, as a country, change so significantly.  After all, although voters are older and hopefully wiser, each was trained as a toddler.  Perhaps, we must go back to school, to begin at the beginning.  It may be that what we witness among adults could be quelled in the early years.  Conventionally, in Elementary School, and on into Secondary Schools children were separated or tracked.  In a desire to create a more balanced educational environment, the racial divide can be more apparent.

    Beth C. Rubin, an assistant education professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., describes how a school system’s efforts to end tracking-the practice of grouping students in separate classes by academic ability-inadvertently stigmatized minority students in one high school classroom. In that class, a teacher’s careful efforts to balance student work groups by race, gender, and ability enraged an African-American student.

    “You trying to get all the black kids away from each other, before we cause a nuclear holocaust!” the student exclaimed. Meanwhile, the white students in the class, most of whom were high-achieving, relegated the minority students in their groups to roles that gave them little opportunity to hone their academic skills, according to Ms. Rubin’s account.

    “I guess I’m asking teachers to think about race a little differently, and not so much about having to have kids equally distributed among groups,” Ms. Rubin said in an interview.  “And also,” she added, “to think of group work as skill-building over the course of the year.

    Americans are reminded each day, integration without conversation does little to create balance.  People must not merely live together in neighborhoods, or work with one another in schools, or in offices.  We must learn to be open, honest, and willing to work through our differences.  What we do not understand will destroy us.  

    A word, a look, will be interpreted through our personal background and experience.  If you are Black, a criticism might mean, “Get Back!”  If white, the same statement might be construed as, “It will be all right.”  If we remain colormute and colorblind, if we never bother to learn who each of us is, we can be certain, change will not come.  This is evident in numerous studies.  Our expectations rule.

    Balance is also key to the kind of instructional climate teachers should provide in racially diverse classrooms, [communities or campaigns] according to Ronald F. Ferguson, the director of Harvard’s Achievement Gap Initiative . . .

    Geoffrey L. Cohen, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, recommends that, in offering students critical feedback, teachers convey the idea that the criticism reflects a high standard, and that they believe in the student’s ability to reach that standard . . .

    Mr. Cohen has found that such messages can be more motivating for minority students, who are often wary of the feedback they get from teachers, than when educators overpraise them or give the same feedback to all students.

    “Being a member of a stereotyped group puts one in a sort of bubble in which one can’t be certain whether the critical feedback comes from bias against their group or a teacher’s motivation to help one improve,” Mr. Cohen said in an interview.  “In general, though, whites can enter a school situation thinking, ‘Teachers here believe in me.'”

    For many Black Americans, an educator is frequently another white person who works from a premise of fear or futility.  Too often, a teacher seems pompous or pretentious.  It is not uncommon for an African-American to feel patronized when in the presence of an Anglo authority figure.  A comment meant to express care, can be heard as contrived.  

    Every individual, regardless of color, has a history.  Experience teaches us more than a professional mentor might.  It is hard to trust that a person might be colorblind, if that is even possible, if they are colormute.

    As long as Americans choose to avoid the discussion of diversity, to deny differences, and to reject hat our distinctive appearances enhance our experience, then life will be as it is and was.  Change cannot come.  Admittedly, Anglos are [color] blind.  Apparently, Caucasians, and even Blacks prefer to be [color] mute.  This must end if we are to evolve.

    When Americans, teachers, preachers, or Presidential hopefuls, do not empathetically approach the topic of intolerance then, as a society, we will continue to clash and crumble.  We may wish to hide from what haunts us.  However, there is a price to pay for racial discrimination and the income inequity we accept.

    Economically and emotionally, bigotry is  expensive.   Americans can see the cost of dilapidated schools.  Residents in this Northern region of the globe experience what occurs when students do not have the opportunity to soar.  Employment possibilities are limited.  Without a satisfactory job, homeownership is not feasible.  Even apartment life is not cheap.  In a culture that creates illiteracy, the streets may provide the only shelter.  

    A society that houses hordes of those with dark skin in slums does not truly serve us equally.  Citizens of the United Sates might understand, when a person is poor, as too many Black people are, they cannot afford adequate Health Care.  Hence, everyone, the affluent, and those who struggle but survive, contribute to the costs an ill and impoverished America creates.  

    In this country, in our local communities, during this political campaign, if Americans remain colorblind and colormute, nothing will change.  The possibility that conditions will worsen is one we must acknowledge.

    Barack Obama may be correct.  Differences exist.  However, they need not divide us.  Conversations about colorblindness and colormuteness can make his dream, our shared hope, come true.  Let us imagine that one day, this vision will be ours together.  As one people, united, perchance in time Americans will say . . .

    The choice . . . is not between regions, religions, or genders. It’s not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white.

    It’s about the past versus the future.

    It’s about whether we settle for the same divisions, distractions, and drama . . . or whether we reach for  . . . common sense, and innovation – a shared sacrifice and shared prosperity . . .

    When I hear that we’ll never overcome the racial divide . . . I think . . . Don’t tell me we can’t change.

    Yes, we can change.

    Yes, we can heal this nation.

    Yes we can seize our future.

    Anglo-Americans must no longer hold their children tightly when in the company of Black man or woman.  Pinkish people cannot continue to caution their progeny, to tell them they must pretend to be colorblind, and authentically become colormute.  If we are to ever heal, Caucasians in this country must mentor their offspring to believe, colors are beautiful.  Americans need to see the tone of a person’s skin, to speak of an individual’s race, and the realities without criticism.  If this country is going to change, if the United States expects to excel, then, we, the people must truly be, and act as equals.

    Resources For Racism . . .

    The Walls Cried Out; Why I Write

    copyright © Judith Moriarty

    A look back over my life, epitomizes to me, what has happened to America.  There was once upon a time those magic moments far removed from the madness of war, box stores, and shuttered towns.  My brother Johnny and I would spend summer days at our secret ‘camp’ called Sundown.  It sat above the steel mills far below in the valley.  We would take an iron skillet, eggs, bacon, and eat our lunch there near the waterfall.  I can’t remember that we ever spent a moment indoors during the summer.  

    No ‘Danger Stranger’ – had our streets resembling a ghost town.  We had no TV – no video games etc.  There were no malls – and no designer duds, or exotic vacations.  People aren’t poor until the world tells them they are.  When you have the beauty of nature – nobody is poor.

    Then one day the trucks came.  The church who owned the fields and woods; sold the land to the robber barons who owned the mills.  They covered the fields, the woods, and our secret camp, with tons and tons of ash and hot slag.  They didn’t live there so they didn’t care.  Pretty soon, there was just an ugly black mountain of black ash/slag.  Then people started dumping garbage there and the rats came.  

    When we visited my Aunt Celie, (a newspaper editor) we could stand in her back yard and see the mountain hanging precariously over the town .  My aunt lived near the mills.  

    Johnny and I worked on the slagheap after it covered our woods and waterfall.  We would chip away the slag from chunks of metal and then take our wagon to the junkyard to be weighed.  Johnny brought his bow and arrow to keep the rats away.  On a good day, (8:00 am to 4:00 pm) we could make $4.00.  Everyone thought that Johnny and I were the twins.  My twin Jackie (a head taller) didn’t care for woods, making stilts, or fishing in the creek.  As for slag, forget it.  Jackie was more into playing house and dressing up.  

    Then one day the good news came (I was nine – Johnny was seven) we got the news that we were moving to the mountains.  My dad had gotten a job as an electrician, at the Joy, (they made mining machinery) in a small town, far removed from belching mills or mountains of ash.  We really moved there to be closer to my brother Jerry (older) who was autistic.  

    After his last series of vaccine shots, he disappeared into a black hole.  He sang and danced and then he was silent.  Noise bothered him.  You couldn’t cry in our house.  My sister Jackie did – she lacked any sensitivity to my brother.  One day he threw a tobacco can at her.  It hit the bridge of her nose.  Blood covered the walls.  That’s when it was decided that an institution was the only answer.  This from the relatives.  

    The small town that we moved to was magical.  There were sweeping parks, creeks to fish in,  Indian burial grounds, and forts.  The institution was about 20 miles outside of town.  You traveled over the river and winding mountain roads to reach its Gothic forbidding grounds.

    Almost every weekend I would travel to the institution with my parents.  I had thought when they drove him away one day (I was nine) that he was going to a school that would take care of him.  I imagined that once he was gone that we would become a ‘normal’ family.  We wouldn’t have to worry about noise, or crying, or relatives coming to the house, like black crows on a clothesline, whispering about how he was ‘crazy’.  The neighbors wouldn’t tell me that my brother was ‘a cretin ‘ because of ‘the sins of my parents’.  Not that I knew what the hell sin was?

    My parents never took my brother and sister to this place – only me.  They wanted somebody to care for Jerry after they died (I was chosen).  They needn’t have worried – I wouldn’t have forgotten him.  I spent many an hour with him in his bedroom (before he went away) – where he spit on toys and listened to music.  He never went outside after Eddie Perry (big bully) crushed his hand with a brick.  Even though I was a midget kid, I went up to Eddy, doubled my fist, and smashed him in the face.  It broke his nose.  Eddy wasn’t king of the hill after that.  Sometimes violence rears its ugly head despite the best of intentions.  I only regret that I wasn’t stronger.  He ruined my brother’s enjoyment of being outside in the dirt pile.  

    People shouldn’t lie to their kids about a handicapped child in the family.  My mother told me that Jerry was a gift from God.  I didn’t think that God was putting various disabilities on certain people just for fun or to make life interesting for people? People are always blaming God for someone flawed, terribly injured, or killed in war.  As I saw it, most maladies came about through man’s pollution of the environment, contaminated (mercury) vaccines, accidents, or the greed of generational war.  Even so, – people such as my brother – are gifts.  It’s up to the individual to discover this gift in another.  Without the challenges of serving those in distress, maimed, or mentally challenged, how would we ever grow spiritually; in the gifts of kindness, compassion, patience, and the giving of ourselves? How would we develop the skill needed to hear the cry of the voiceless?

    My parents (best of intentions) never should have exposed me to the traumas of visiting an institution at such a young and vulnerable age.  They should have arranged for me to meet them in the small restaurant downtown where they brought Jerry to eat.  Children are not psychologically developed enough to grasp the horrors of caged people (this goes for prisons also).Childhood is a small fragment of time – it needs to be protected.

    I can still remember the first time I visited this place.  There were bars on the windows.  Nude men (it was summer) like rabid animals, were climbing on the bars, and screeching the most inhuman of sounds.  I couldn’t believe that my brother was locked up in the bowels of such a place.  They (staff) would NEVER let you go beyond the visitors’ room when you went to visit.  You would wait until they brought your relative out all dressed up.  I remember looking at those locked doors and wondering just what lay behind them? I knew my parents didn’t want my brother to be in that place but poverty didn’t have the choice of a special hospital, such as the private facility, where the Kennedy family put their daughter.  

    Raised in the Catholic Church, I was convinced that if only we could get Jerry to one of those miracle places (Fatima – Lourdes ), he’d become normal.  For years I’d pray that he’d get well and then one day I stopped.  I then started praying (after visiting the institution) that he would die.  I couldn’t imagine him being imprisoned in such a place his whole life?  Then one day he did die.  He died from abuse and neglect.  He died from indifference.  He died because some people should never be employed to care for helpless, voiceless, crippled people.  It was a dreary winter day when they buried him in the institution’s potter’s field.  There was a blizzard.  In the end, it was only my parents and myself who stood there listening to the forever prayers of the dead.  

    I was freezing and I was angry.  Still a kid, I remember my own prayers.  I said (to myself)….”So what was this all about? Why didn’t you (God) take him sooner – instead of him having to suffer all these years? I just want to know – just let me know if he’s safe and happy now.” The priest droned on and on.  He handed the crucifix off the cheap gray cloth box to my dad.  The snow was getting deeper.  I wondered how we’d get out of that desolate place.  Five, ten, and then fifteen minutes passed.  In all that time, not one drop of snow fell where the crucifix had lain.  All that was visible was a stark gray cloth cross.  It was enough for me.  My parents died a few years after my brother.  For years, my mother had battled for the rights and protections of the institutionalized.  I think she felt powerless, because, while she knew what was happening behind locked doors, from my brother’s physical condition, she couldn’t prove it.

    And then one day I went to work in this institution.  It came about by an accident of sorts.  My friend and I were running a Dairy Store.  She was the manager and I the assistant.  We were cooks, clerks, and janitors.  We were fired when we went on strike (signs and all) for better wages for the employees.  We were told by the old timers in town that management never strikes for the workers.  Huh!

    Kathleen wasn’t too keen on going to the institution to work – she was afraid.  I promised her that if it didn’t work out in a few weeks we’d quit.  She was assigned to a woman’s building, and I, to the same building where my brother had lived and died! Kathleen’s husband, who worked as a supervisor, figured it out once.  I could have been assigned to one of 700 different places – but I ended up where I had visited as a child! It was 6:30 am (first day of work) when I was led behind the locked doors that I had wondered about as a child? I was appalled.  

    Nude men lay in the hallways, the place reeked of urine.  The employees screamed and cursed at the residents.  I almost quit that first day.  Then I remembered that my brother never had a choice of leaving.  He had been kept in restraints a great deal of the time which caused his arms to become deformed.  This was done because there was never enough staff.  Residents sat on hard benches or rocked back and forth.  There was little to no interaction or stimulation.  

    The worst thing was observing the abuse.  Staff (mostly male) would kick, slap and throw residents down the stairs.  My first inclination was to report these assaults – but I waited.  I took the time to learn all the regulations, policies, and laws pertaining to those in institutions.  I wanted to have my arguments based on documentation rather than emotion.  I noted than whenever politicians were brought around for a visit everything was shined up and the residents dressed in clean clothes.  Then one summer day, I arrived at worked (2:30pm) .  The staff (all male) were standing around the desk smoking and telling lewd jokes.  I went to find the residents.  They were all (approx 30) laying in the cavernous bathroom (open toilets).  

    They were nude and covered with feces and flies.  Some were eating out of the toilets (nobody had taken them to the dining hall).  I just cried.  Then I cleaned them up and wrote a long detailed (3 pages) report in the logbook on what I’d found.  This was NEVER done! Usually the Log read, “Found the cottage in good order all residents accounted for.” When the supervisor came around to sign the book, he had a fit.  He told me I couldn’t write something like that because the employees would be upset.  I told him I hadn’t come there to please the employees and that since a Log book was an official document it couldn’t be altered.  

    That was the start of a three-year battle.  The proverbial crap hit the fan.  They tried to kill me – and went on strike to get me fired.  They refused to talk to me.  They and got together to falsely charge me with abuse.  On and on it went.  I was made to take a lie detector test (the abusers refused).  I won every court battle.  The small town paper was filled with venom and charges against me.  When they tried (administration) to remove me, I called every major newspaper – TV station in the state.  When a helicopter arrived from the nearest city (100 miles away) with reporters they stated, “Ms Moriarty we’ve been to the institution.  They tell us you’re a trouble maker and a rabble rouser.”

    I replied, “If reporting patients being thrown down stairs, held under water, kicked, not clothed, not fed, allowed to die tied to a toilet, and not being given proper medical care, makes me a ‘trouble maker’ – YES that’s exactly what I am.  I will continue to be one until somebody in this state pays attention and does something.” that was on every news station in the state.  

    It worked.  An investigation was started from the state level.  The superintendent, who once called me to his office, and told me he’d destroy me,  was fired.  So were numerous other people.  Meantime, I had gotten the residents new clothes, furnishings (instead of benches).  I painted murals on the depressing bile green walls (fishing ports – lake pictures) and brought music in to cheer the place up.  The nurse and her husband, the dentist, were fired.  They had worked there for years and years.  They cleaned up on lucrative salaries and lived an elegant lifestyle with their two fat sons.  I reported her for the death of Felix who died tied (her orders) to a toilet.  

    And then things changed.  People noted that I hadn’t gotten myself killed and hadn’t quit.  They slowly (at first) started to come forth and report all the abuses they’d witnessed.  They weren’t afraid any longer.  Late at night, reading my mother’s diaries, I saw that she mistakenly assumed, that she was the person meant to reveal the hidden atrocities taking place.  She wasn’t – all along, it was my job – assigned to me as a child.  I now knew why I had visited the place throughout my childhood.  I finally had the answer that I asked at my brother’s grave, “What was this all about?”

    God had waited for over a hundred years for someone to speak up for those without a voice.  He just needed somebody to rise above their personal fears and believe.  It’s hard to explain.  Once you are totally committed that something is worth dying for – there’s nothing that stands in your way.  I knew that I was totally in the right! You don’t go harming helpless period!

    Many of the institutions are closed now.  America hasn’t dealt with those most in need.  Parents are left begging for non-existent help.  Programs are being cut.  Many of the terribly handicapped, have been shuffled off to nursing homes, where they languish and die.

    I remember one night walking though the corridor from one area to another.  It was late and I was tired.  I thought to myself of what the walls had witnessed down through the decades? Just then, I heard a moaning.  I turned and saw these gray faces/hands reaching out.  It was a living wall of faceless memories.  I heard the words, “Write so the world will know.” People think that people in institutions are without personalities or don’t respond to love.  This is such a lie.  

    It just takes some time and ingenuity to reach such people.  They were so abused for years, that at first, they afraid of touch.  Andrew liked for me to tousle his hair and kiss his cheek.  John was harder.  He was deaf, blind, and severely retarded.  I thought about how hard it would be for someone to not know where they were or feel any love.  He used to sit in fetal position.  Then I had the idea of wrapping him tightly in a summer blanket (like you do a newborn).  That made him smile – he felt secure.  Donny loved music.  He chewed his wrists raw! Once I put socks on his hands that stopped.  And so it went.  Everybody responds to touch and love.  

    And so now, I write.  I live far from the small town of magic that my brother Johnny and I so enjoyed.  Johnny is dead now.  We had planned to visit the places where we fished and hiked last summer.  Now I sometimes visit the Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont.  It’s a magical place of giant puppets & political theater.  It keeps a remembrance, through art, of the grave injustices of man’s inhumanity to man.  It speaks for the voiceless.  Mine is its own story – but basically, we can see through the memory glass, that our lives are covered in ash – garbage – and unconscionable pollution.  I wasn’t shocked at the pictures of torture – minus the dogs, I’d seen similar incidents at the institution.  

    Shocking to me was to live in a town, where seemingly ‘normal’ people, could go to work, and commit such heinous acts on helpless people.  They once mocked me and said, “Those people don’t feel anything.” Isn’t that what we’re witnessing today? The greatest sin is not to hate – but indifference.  My life is just a microcosm of the whole.  FEAR immobilizes many today – just as it did with the people employed at the institution.  The INSTITUTION today is just on a grander scale – global.  

    JM