Meridian Star

June 30, 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Where do we go

from here: chaos

or community?

    We just elected a new mayor and City Council members here in our beloved city of Meridian. Did we really engaged in a clear decision as to who will be the best candidates to move us closer toward honesty, equality, and eventually coming clean; qualities needed to build a better Meridian?

    The title of this article comes from the book Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in 1967 regarding the vision he had for the future of this country. Now, let’s bring this situation closer to home, our beloved Meridiani. Let’s look at what we have: our city, Police Department, Juvenile Division, Division of Human Services, Division of Youth Services and two juvenile judges have been sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly running a schoolhouse to jailhouse pipeline; our school system is rated near the bottom of all school districts in the state; this same district virtually admitted in a Consent Decree for violation of 1965 Desegregation order and its role in unfair disciplinary practices, and The DOJ included the State of Mississippi in this lawsuit.

    The IRS and FBI have raided alleged illegal gambling houses all over the city; the crime rate for a metropolis of this size is outrageous and finally the Republican Party has controlled city and county government for close to a half century now.

    Where do we go and, whom do we go with?

    It’s easy to say we need change. But, not only change, but clarity as to how will we deal with the current issues we are facing! I don’t know about anyone else, but, I didn’t hear any specifics from either candidate as to how we will deal with the feds problems, reform schools, improve communities, eradicate alleged illegal criminality, reduce drugs, combat gangs, address juvenile crime, an actual plan to bring in better paying jobs, nor have we heard a clear plan to improve the quality of life for school age youth.

    It’s like Dr. King is living in our beloved city, peering at our daily grind, and assessing how we are blaming each other for the conditions that are affecting all of us. For the poor and disenfranchised living with the daily ugliness of a slum life, educational castration, and economic exploitation, some ghetto dwellers now and then strike out in spasms of violence and self-defeating murders.  

    A murderous riot is at bottom the language of the unheard. It is the desperate, suicidal cry of one who is so fed up with the powerlessness of his cave existence that he asserts he would rather be dead than ignored.

    Most people are totally unaware of the darkness of the cave in which the poor is forced to live.  

    A few individuals can break out, but the vast majority remains its prisoners.  Our cities have constructed elaborate expressways and elevated skyways, and middle and upper-class Meridianites speed from the suburbs to the inner-city through vast pockets of black deprivation without ever getting a glimpse of the suffering and misery in their midst.

    But while so many suburban Meridianites are unaware of the conditions inside of the public housing projects, there are very few ghetto dwellers that are unaware of the life outside. Their television sets bombard them day by day with the opulence of the larger society. From behind public housing walls they can see glistening towers of glass and steel springing up almost overnight. They hear jetliners speeding overhead. They hear satellites streaking through outer space and revealing the moon.  

    Then they begin to think of their own conditions. They know they are always given the hardest, ugliest, most menial work to do. Therefore, this generation chooses not to work at all. Drug dealing money pays better!      

    Being poor in Meridian means being herded in public houses, or poor surrounding neighborhoods, being constantly ignored and made to feel invisible.  You long to be seen, to be heard, and be respected. But, its like blowing in the wind!

    When faced with illiteracy, the bewildering complexity of city life undermines the confidence of fathers and mothers, causing them to lose control of their children. Though both are unskilled, the women can be used in domestic services at low wages. The woman becomes the support of the household and the matriarchy is reinforced.  

    The poor black males exist in a larger society dominated by white men, but he is subordinated to women in his own society. His rage and torment frequently turns inward, because if they gain outward expression, his consequences could be fatal.

    Economically poor fathers become resigned to hopelessness and he communicates this to his children. Poverty has no color; the shattering blows on the family have made it fragile, deprived and often psychopathic.

    What we need in a mayor is someone who will stop ignoring the plight of the poor man’s problem, because they are a part of the poor and the poor are a part of them. What we need today is to recognize the truth. True understanding is more than having pity; it is the capacity to empathize.  

    Pity is feeing sorry for someone; empathy is feeling sorry with someone.  Empathy is fellow feeling for the person in need – his pain, agony and burdens. I doubt if the problems of our city will have a great chance to be solved until empathy comes to feel the aches and anguish of the poor daily life.

Rev. Randle L. Jennings