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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Racism, Social Justice and Fear

The holidays seem to bring out the worst in a lot of people. As we enter another year of economic recession/depression, we are going to see a lot more panic, fear, racism, and mean behavior by the haves as well as the have-nots. In other words, forecast is continued ugly.

A white guy angrily confronted an all white/male school board in Panama City, FL over his wife's firing by the district. Or maybe she was laid off - it was unclear. But the husband was upset enough to die for the incident having proclaimed that he would die that day (he did). The school board president was confrontational - claiming not to know anything about why he signed the order to dismiss - sounds like robo-layoffs to me - and then the gunman started shooting at close range and missed everyone. I suspect he may have been shooting while under the influence. Paddy Chayefsky's words ring in my ear - I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.

In the UK, a white robber wore an elaborate latex mask (a movie mask) to make himself look black. The subtlety is like a brick. In Kansas City, gunfire erupted outside a church as a funeral service for a shooting victim was going on, no doubt sending a warning to someone about some gang conflict. A news story commenter quipped, "it's not even safe to be dead in the 'hood." In Camden, NJ people are starting to get worried in the face of looming police and fire layoffs that will leave this poor city even more vulnerable than it already is. Local stores are selling T-shirts with the date of the layoffs on it saying, "this is the day we take our corners back." Apparently drug dealers are buying them up...and are ready to feast on Camden. Kansas City has had 99 homicides in 2010 - mostly on the eastside. There is an election for mayor and council coming up and not much is being said about it, except a lot of platitudes.

People are angry and desperate as layoffs and a jobless non-recovery continue. People look for scapegoats in time of financial crisis. People who are are the cause are not taking responsibility and instead are deflecting. Finger pointing is all the rage these days. Rage is all the rage too - from students protesting violently in Europe, to Wikileaks drama, to China dissident drama, to our own Congress and President filibustering on both sides of the tax issues and using us as pawns in their political games. It's ugly out there folks. Keep your head down.

But I would like to suggest that social justice be given a spotlight as a consideration for moving forward. TKC has a very nice post about this today - Secret Santa Charity v. Social Justice. Comments are coming in and typical of his readership, there are lots of very animated opinions on this. Social Justice is about taking responsibility for complicit and explicit contributions to injustices. In Kansas City as in most other places including Panama City, Camden, etc., there are injustices. If the school district lays off people - do they not have a responsibility to provide some job assistance to those thrown into the job pool? Corporations do this all the time. If there are 99 murders in KC, doesn't the entire city need to work together to support the families of their fellow citizens who have died violently? If Camden is going to lay off police and fire as well as other city workers, doesn't the city need to ensure protection for its citizens and support those laid off who live in the city (police and fire are exempt from residency requirements after a couple of years of service)?

When you cast people adrift due to budget shortfalls, bad economy, or whatever - you don't end your responsibility. In the public sector - they are still your residents, still your citizens, and now they are in a precarious position. When you let your city languish with crime - you cast your citizens adrift to fend for themselves - yet they are still your residents, your citizens, and they are in a precarious position.

I often point fingers on this blog - but let me be clear - it is not out of blame or fault. It is out of taking responsibility. What have you done lately to take responsibility? Help a neighbor? Volunteer at a shelter? Demand action from your city? Get engaged with your community? There is a lot of pain out there. Let's not cower in fear, let's recognize it, take responsibility (not blame or fault), and ease the pain - after all - it is the season of holidays.

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