Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What Baltimore's UNHEARD are SAYING

Every time there are riots we are reminded of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 statement,
It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.
Riots are effective at drawing attention -- rioters are heaped with the scorn of those in power -- but less effective at stating what is going on that is so intolerable.  A remarkable quote, from Aisha Snead who grew up in West Baltimore and reported in The New York Times 4.29.15, captures the essence of the problem that must be heard:
This is the land time forgot.  They want to act like the CVS [which was burned] is the Taj Mahal.  They have dilapidated buildings everywhere.  They have never invested in the people.  In fact, it's divested.  They take every red cent they can from poor black people and put it in the Inner Harbor.
The New York Times's coverage also included a map showing low life expectancy and high poverty in the areas of unrest.  They might have usefully added maps from the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health examined Baltimore neighborhoods.  The maps show how accurate Ms. Snead is in saying "this is the land time forgot."  Using the 1937 redlining map of Baltimore, the Center was able to show that areas that were poor and segregated then -- and marked for low (or even no) investment were statistically more likely to poor, have low rates of home ownership and to be segregated in the present.  As Ms. Snead observes, Baltimore is not sharing the wealth.  The assets they are frantic to protect are not for the poor.

There are many ways to measure racism.  Along some of those dimensions, racism has largely disappeared.  On other dimensions -- notably how we distribute resources among neighborhoods and peoples -- we are worse than ever.  Because we don't have the same kind of racist thinking our forebears had, we wonder how the effects of racism can still be getting worse.  That is why this study from VCU is so important.  They are telling us that our forebears made a RACISM MACHINE that still operates -- even if it no longer has our permission.  We must dismantle the MACHINE.  

The rioters are expressing their RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE -- our very survival as a society depends on hearing this message -- because that machine is placing all of us at horrendous risk.  And this may be the dimension of racism along which almost all of us still fail.  Consider this question: 
Who is hurt by racism? a) black people b) people of color c) white people d) all of us
 If you picked D-All of us, you got it right.  But ask around in your network.  The usual answers will be a and b.  We still don't get that oppression of some hurts all.  This is a fundamental piece of the MACHINE that we can dismantle today.  Spread the word: Racism is bad for the nation.

1 comment:

Lally said...

incredibly necessary perspective that needs to be shared everywhere well put and focused on the root(s) of the problem and challenge...thank you...