Please check out the comments for a good discussion of this post. I was called to task and modified some of my points. But for the first commenter, I have no answer. If all we are doing is throwing cups of water on the huge fire, then where is hose and how do we use it?
There was a story in the CP this week about school children who marched for Peace from the Molina Elementary school in North Camden to the Whitman Arts Center in Cooper Grant. They were honoring one of the students at the school who had died at the hand of street violence. Today there are 2 more to march for - the city's 9th and 10th homicides occurred this weekend. Marching for Peace is not the answer. Peace is not the opposite of violence - ending violence as an option is the opposite of violence. Peace may then result. It is this step of ending violence as an option that seems elusive.
In the article about the kids, the writer noted that once the kids went from N.Camden under the bridge to Rutgers, the landscape made a remarkable change. Indeed the chaos and disorder of North Camden is replaced by the landscaped, streetscaped, and orderly environment of Cooper Grant and the Rutgers Campus. It is a stark transition and represents what white middle class people think the urban core should look like. But when it is compared to neighboring suburbs, most middle class people would find it somewhat unacceptable - too close to the dangerous neighborhoods, too few conveniences such as grocery and other stores, and there is no guarantee it won't turn into just another Camden neighborhood, swallowed by violence and blight.
Well, I can be certain of this - if people continue to believe and behave the way they do, then the results we get will be exactly the same and it will be the outcome we choose. Whether we want to admit it or not, the current urban conditions are exactly what we want. What other explanation can there be? In a city of incredible crime, we have a police force that is barely visible. Yet in my neighborhood, I have a security patrol, a state police patrol, a port authority patrol, and the city police. Why isn't there this kind of presence throughout Camden? Because people aren't demanding it. Because city hall does not feel pressured to do it. Because no one believes that it would happen even if they asked for it, and the powers that be don't believe it would make a difference. That is the crux of it. People who make decisions don't believe anything will change. So we get the results we do want - murders, street violence, fear, drugs sales, and a brutal police response when they do respond. This is not to say that we actually want these horrible things. But at some level, the powers that be, the suburbanites, and others draw some benefit from this status quo. Think on that a while.
Four years ago I changed my life. I decided the only way to change results was to be part of the solution. I joined an urban core community and lived there - became a part of the community and began to tell the story to others that the neighborhood was human and caring and interesting. Yes there was violence, yes there was crime, yes there were problems, but it could be approached. I believed in the value of that community. I learned that many of the residents believed the same thing. It put everything into sharp focus instead of the prejudged view of the dangerous urban core that is portrayed on the 6 o'clock news.
What will you do to be part of the solution? Write a check or mentor a student in the local schools? Be glad you don't live here or support a neighborhood or community organization? Continue to throw verbal stones at Camden or find out about the reality of this city by living here? Demand that Camden be attended to or continue to wrap yourself in your assurances that you know that Camden is a place that can't be salvaged? Choose wisely because eventually your future will depend on it.