What does an active community look like?

Link to PBS event

This past Saturday I just happened to click on the start of a PBS townhall discussion concerning the recent police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Unless you’ve been living in a hole you probably know the shooting victim was an 18 year old, unarmed African American male whose death led to mass demonstrations and exposed a divided nation based on race. The audience looked uneasy as the camera panned the crowd of both white and black citizens. To my eye, the white attendees looked a bit more nervous and fidgety. The hostess, PBS regular Gwen Ifill, jumped right in and began fishing for perspectives from the massed community representatives. An early testimonial came from a young African-American man who stated, “I’d rather die and burn in hell than be pulled over by the St. Louis Police Department.” In reaction, I expected some of the white members of the audience to stand up and say, “Whoa, if you seriously feel that you’re under siege in your own city we need to have more of these talks and try to do something about this; after all, we are supposed to be living in a democracy.

To my surprise, what did happen was a middle-aged white man took the microphone and stated that “HIS” relatives never owned slaves and why is “HE” being held (unfairly) accountable for racism in America? He continued, “How could anyone in their right mind claim he held any responsibility for this situation?”

That made me think about my view point a little more deeply. For all I know, my family never owned slaves either, but in no way do I feel I am detached from this issue and bear no responsibility. You see sir, we live in a white-dominant society that controls the resources, government power (police), and prints the job applications we fill out. You do NOT in fact bear the weight of responsibility for slavery or racism, but you do bear at least some responsibility for a system that allows it. Your resume gets put to the top of the stack, you get to live wherever you want, you get waved through police roadblocks, and you don’t have a 400- year history of being lynched, separated, and enslaved. You have a corner on all the good jobs and have the least to gain if the system ends racism and inequity in America during your lifetime. Therefore, it is far easier to kick the can down the road and think of how innocent you are rather than face there’s a problem here.

We can’t shout about Constitutional freedoms and democracy in support of gun ownership and land use without transferring all guaranteed rights to every individual within our boundaries without being hypocrites. Also, we can’t claim to be Christians if those beliefs are merely confined to Sunday mass. Equality is the basis of a divine spirit and to ignore that divinity inside each person while allowing inequity to continue is spiritual absurdity. Is it any wonder young citizens are being driven from religious traditions in droves?

What we need is more than a one-time, one-hour session of town hall discussion on controversial topics that effect and concern us all.  President Obama, state governors, and local mayors should actively encourage regularly scheduled televised townhall discussions that invite the full spectrum of views to weigh in on where we are and what we should do about controversial issues.  Topics should vary, dealing with the problem of racism, corporate power, government corruption, promoting community, and environmental standards on a rotational basis. Everyone gets a voice, with ever topic available within 24 hours on-line and at local libraries. I think it would immediately become evident who favors the power structure evidenced by the strength of their objections in our media. Let it roll.  By the way, my six words summing up the issue? We can get past a color.


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