Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Real Problem with Race and Homelessness and more in Greenville...

The fallout from yesterday and the day before's incident will tell the tale.  Sometimes the true value of an incident is not in the thing itself but our reaction to it, or in this case, the lack thereof.  There was outrage at the idea that one our citizens could not walk the street in a well lit area at a reasonable hour without being bothered.  The fact that the bothering came from the police should be more telling.

Yesterday, I went to every official and person of standing in the community that I knew.  I talked to professors, pastors, rabbis, county council members, news outlets and the readers of this blog (here is yesterday's).  The readership spiked, people spoke about their outrage in private messages but there was nothing done.  I did not receive a single response from anyone of our leaders.

I did speak to one person in City Hall.  Her response?  Not outrage. (I always liked Al Pacino's line in City Hall where he as mayor says, "If a sparrow dies in Central Park, I feel responsible")walking in the neighborhood that I was in at that hour (7:30 p.m.) was suspicious behavior apparently. Who knew I was not allowed to be outside after dark?
 Not annoyance at the fact that an officer treated a citizen so poorly.  I was told that I should not have been walking and that I should buy a car.  A person

We like to believe these days are over...
I talked to groups that have led talks about racism and more in the area and have asked questions among a very select peer group and they said nothing.  Apparently when they conduct surveys and have talks about outreach, they see nothing wrong.  Of course, the survey pool is affluent whites and a smattering of well educated minorities.  When they talk to them, they say that everything is just great! Fine and dandy.

The thing that this has shown me is that the goal is not to end homelessness, but to get rid of the homeless.  The two are very different.  We don't want to house them, we want to get them off the streets.  How do we do that?  We apparently don't care as long as they are out of sight.  We are ok with tent city because that is where "they" live.  It is ok to live in a tent on public property as long as no one can see you...There! Problem solved!  The homeless are told with tacit agreement that "You can live in the woods along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, as long as no one complains."

We are a giving people in the south.  We reach out, we really do...At Christmas and Thanksgiving.  The other 363 days of the year, well...

Craig Steven Ray Brown was found dead early in July 2013 by a churchgoer in Downtown Greenville.  Robin Banta was shot in the chest off the Swamp Rabbit Trail at about the same time, but his body was not found until about a month later in August. Jackie Goldman died in November while sleeping outside of a closed Bi-Lo store.

These people drift in and out of our lives and exist in the periphery of the world.  We notice them floating around, pass them on the street and we sometimes buy them coffee or a muffin.  Not to wax religious, but we are told that we will be judged by how we treat the least among us.

People are telling me that I should engage in a lawsuit and scream bloody murder about the way I have been treated.  I am inclined to. I thought it best to engage in the conversation first. I thought we should try to talk about this before it goes to far, to hold our tongues, to do the right thing first.

The fallout is the thing.  Where are our leaders, where are the people who are supposed to work to solve our problems not just those of the ones who vote for them?  Where are the officers who are supposed to serve and protect everyone, not just those who look like they are supposed to be in a particular area?

Too many people disappear without anyone knowing anything of them.  When (not if but when), I get stopped again, I am not going to be so cooperative.  We are not required to show ID unless the officer has a reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place and that I am a part of it.  I am not going to.  The next time (and it will happen again) that I walking along, minding my own business, I am simply going to ask the officer if I am under arrest and if so we go from there and I hope that someone notices that I am gone.

Last night, after a sleepless night the night prior, I was tired.  I was about 3 miles from home when I decided to end my day and it was 7:30.  Normally, on a night last night, I would walk home to clear my head.  Last night, though, I asked someone to drive me home.  Was I scared of being mugged?  No...I was scared I would be stopped by the cops...again.

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