Politics, as we observe that process today, seems to have little to do with "conducting the people's business". It has more to do with dividing the populace into voting blocs, pitting one against the other. Solutions to problems aren't sought; they're manipulated into a continuum of festering sores. Those sores always intended to be "the other guy's fault". Personal accountability? Fuggedaboudit!
Politicians "milk" serious issues for their own benefit. All too often, there is no desire to find an amicable solution to a problem simply because keeping an issue festering is used to achieve some political gain. One such issue that keeps getting its fires stoked is that of police departments being targeted as "racists". No matter what the job, there will always be some people who perform admirably while some of their co-workers are marginal at best. Life is a series of "bell curves" where no matter what the job, the top 10 percent or 20 percentwill perform over and above expectations. In the center of that bell, will be 60 percent to 80 percent of the workers who perform normally and meet basic job expectations. At the bottom of the bell curve, that other 10 percent to 20 percent, are those who fail to meet the basic, acceptable standards.
It doesn't matter if you are measuring police, automobile mechanics, sales people, managers, teachers or students, engineers or computer geeks, or any other number of jobs . . . within that job classification's pool of workers, there will be a natural bell curve.
In what is now commonly referred to as the Ferguson case, and in spite of the findings in the long awaited Justice Department report which absolved Officer Wilson of any wrong-doing, politicians have done little to honestly and accurately identify the race relations problem, and its causes, and to take constructive action within the community to develop worthwhile solutions . . . the issue is being kept alive and it is festering.
If we don't honestly address the root cause of problems in our communities, how can we expect to fix them? For example, the FBI has determined that the 10 most dangerous cities in America are: Camden, NJ, Flint, MI, Detroit, MI, Oakland, CA, St. Louis, MO, Cleveland, OH, Gary, IN, Newark, NJ, Bridgeport, CT, and Birmingham, AL. These 10 cities share many of the same characteristics. First, their high school dropout rates are terrible. The worst is St. Louis where only 45.9 percent of those who enter the ninth grade ultimately graduate; well below their Missouri State average of 85 percent. Other cities aren't much better with a number of them graduating between 48 percent to 58 percent of their students, with their state's overall graduation rates being from 23 percent to 35 percent higher.
In each of these cities, the white population is in the minority. The lowest percentage is in Detroit, where only 7.8 percent of the population is white. Gary is next at 10.7 percent, followed by Camden at 17.6 percent. On the high end, 43.5 percent of the St. Louis population is white, followed by Flint at 35.7 percent and Cleveland at 33.4 percent.
Median household and poverty levels follow the same patterns. Oakland has the highest median income at $52,583, followed by Bridgeport at $41,050. Both of these cities are in the middle of fairly affluent surroundings. However, at the other end of the spectrum we find that Camden's median income is only $25,791, followed by Cleveland at $26,217, Detroit at $26,325, and Gary at $26,885.
If we truly want to fix the racial problems that exist in our country today, we have to be willing to honestly identify those problems in order to develop the appropriate solutions to them. Having a third of a city's population living in poverty is unacceptable. Spending the money to educate our young people and wind up having half of them not even get a basic high school diploma, is unacceptable. Building ghettos of sameness that lack hope for something better, is unacceptable.
There is no easy answer, but using police as a scapegoat does nothing to overcome the fundamental problems that must be corrected. The Urban Institute (http://www.urban.org/publications/306620.html) has identified these four items as the "current indictment" against the welfare system, and wants to see them addressed openly and honestly:
— It does not provide sufficient state flexibility.
— It does not encourage work.
— It is responsible for the breakdown of the family, especially for a rising tide of out-of-wedlock births.
— It has done little to reduce poverty, especially among children.
These items, and the issue of obtaining a basic education and becoming personally responsible, must be addressed in the communities in which the problems exist. Scapegoating only gives license to grow the problems even larger.
It is time to stop pitting one group against the other for political gains.
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
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