Plain Talk 4-18

Dear Readers,

     I have much to say this week.. Herein lies just my personal reflections.  I have  been trying to put everything in its proper perspective for several weeks.
    Of course, I am talking about Hurricane Katrina and its sociological effect that it has had on our nation. I watched the news all week after Hurricane Katrina.
    I am deeply saddened by what I have seen. The results of Hurricane Katrina have been controversial and have stirred the most unlikely conversations about race and classism in America.
     I would like to hear from you. Please e-mail me and let me know what you are thinking.
     According to the Merriam Webster dictionary the definition of class is a: a group sharing the same economic or social status <the working class> b: social rank; especially: high social rank. The definition of class conscious is 1: actively aware of one’s common status with others in a particular economic or social level of society.
 Whether you think that Kanye West was right or wrong, whether you think Bush was right or wrong, whether the media coverage was right or wrong, whether the mayor or governor of New Orleans is right or wrong, keep on trying to find someone to blame. I think that Bush likes Black people who agree with his policies. Condoleeza Rice is definitely Black and Bush certainly likes her. I wonder how differently he would have been taken if Kanye West said, “Bush doesn’t want to deal with people who are impoverish or living in poverty.”
   I do think that Barbara Bush was wrong for her comments but who knows what she was thinking. I am sure that my grandmother could make outlandish comments as well. As we all do. She forgot that she was the President’s mother, she is getting old. 
(For more information or links to what was actually said log on to http://www.tolerance.org/news/article_tol.jsp?id=1292)
     In classist situations like, Ward 9 in New Orleans, the most impoverished community was in one of the lowest lying areas. Go figure.
     I watched Headline News or CNN one day and there was a white man sitting in front of his antebellum home with a shotgun. He told the reporter that he was a lawyer and that if anyone told him that he had to leave they would be shot and killed. He was just protecting his home.  I wonder if that would be considered thuggish behavior?
     I was reading an opinion article by Cal Thomas entitled “Media slip shows race’s real role” about how some of the evacuees were on ABC watching Bush’s response to Katrina. Overwhelming their responses were positive to Bush’s promises to assist the victims. One person blamed local and state. Mr. Thomas seemed pleased with their response. I would respond the same way too if I was promised the world after living in hell and about to relive it again with Hurricane Rita. I would have slipped into a mode that it is all for myself and my survival.
     Thomas said that some media has tried to shove the idea that white Republicans hate Blacks and Republican government is evil and won’t help Blacks.
     It is about poverty, viewers of that one program got to hear from three Black people out of hundreds. They probably got to sit in a Green Room and eat good. They were probably treated the best that they have been treated in a while.
     Mr. Thomas ended his article with, “A child may be born into poverty, but if he makes the decision to stay in school and study not produce children outside of marriage, refrain from taking or selling drugs and committing other crimes, there is a strong likelihood he will escape poverty.”
    I had to laugh at that one. There should be a reality show for those who think that this kind of mentality is a quick fix method.
     I would like him to tell that to the child whose mother is a drug addict or prostitute. I would like him to tell that to the child who does not eat with the exception of free breakfast and free lunch. Oh yeah, scratch breakfast because he has to dress and feed the other children to get them off to school. Tell it to those who live in roach and rat infested tenements because the landlord does not want to fix the apartment or the apartment next to you is a drug den.   How can you escape being a young pregnant mother, when it was not even your choice not to be a virgin.  I could tell you more stories but my fingers are already tired.
     Yes, Mr. Thomas there is a vast and growing middle and upper class in the Black community. However, just not doing what he requested will not work alone given the communities that impoverished people live in.  Some of the second and third generations could care less about poverty because they are so busy (as I mentioned before) trying to keep up with the Jones’.
     Intelligence also adds a lot to the mixture, impoverished neighborhoods more than likely do not have the best educational institutions in the world.
     I also think that President Bush should have not stayed on vacation. Sure there is a pecking order but when there is a “fire brewing” in your house or if a “city is sinking fast”, you may want to check it out quickly. But I don’t blame Bush because he was probably scared like we all were. We are still scared.
     We are rushing to aid the Hurricane Katrina victims which is very noble but we have a problem.
     For those of you who do not know, a huge poverty and homeless problem which gets worse every day especially for those who are at the City Mission, Volunteers of America and Advent House Ministries.
    When was the last time that you made a donation to any of those places? Hey have you ever even been to any of those places?
      I would suggest that you visit Advent House Ministries on a Sunday morning. Please come in jeans and a tee shirt because you will be out of place in business or church clothes so that you will be able to fit in a little bit better.  Go ahead and sit down at the table and break bread with our hungry and homeless.
     We have a huge problem here people and it is called poverty. We have a big problem in our own communities. Some  have tucked into their subconscious  “we have made it” or “we need to keep up with the Jones’” or “it is just not my problem” factor. Or more interesting those who send their children to school in East Lansing, Lansing, Okemos and Holt instead of trying to work within the Lansing public school system and you live in Lansing.
     It is interesting to me when I go to meetings. I recently went to talk about health disparities and one white male said something to the effect that he knew we were wondering why a white guy would care about his community that was predominately Black. The meeting was made up of mostly whites and professionals. There were about 5 black people and 2 just wanted to make the point that in order to properly serve a community you need to have people serving who are like those people. It creates trust.
    I was scratching my head thinking what does him caring have have to do with all the tea in China. Just do your job and make sure that their are people who ‘truly’ understand the people you are supposedly fighting for. 
     Just invite some of “those people” to meetings. If you really want to be special make a cake or give them some vegetables from your garden. He was misty eyed about his passion but I was personally sickened by his attempt to validate himself. It was not the right time to be offended that some wanted to see changes.   It was not what he was saying was not heart felt but if the people don’t believe him due to distrust and classism the whole thing is a moot point.
     In my opinion, it is true that there are not enough people of color working in the medical field nor are they receptionists, intake persons or nurses.
     We need to have healthy conversations with the people that we are trying to help. There is so much classism in our society.
    Was classism evident at the meeting that I attended? Yes, because those with health disparities or affected by them were not there. I wondered if there was someone at his organization who is representative of the same people he is trying to “help”? I do not know. Have I been to a meeting where poor and workingclass people were facilitators, spokespeople and/or media contacts and leaders, and not just the cleanup crew or the people serving the meals or the college student helping with the mailings? Are those who are discussing these disparities finding a way to make this information available to the people who are affected by classism or the family members whose relative is living in despair?
    I don’t know but I know that Sparrow Hospital nor Ingham Regional advertise on a regular basis with any minority media. You wonder why some are distrustful of health systems.
     Oh and most of these meetings are held during the day, when most people are working and child care is not available for the single father with three children who doesn’t make enough money to have extra fare for the bus or now gas since it at an all time high.
    You cannot tell me that in 75% percent of the people you come across you can’t establish class. Could it be the hairstyle? How someone dresses or the way that they speak? I personally can speak in five different dialects, King James English, Spanglish, New Yorkan, West Indian and a combination of all when I am really excited.
     When Katrina hit I saw an outpouring of support from our community. I wish that the help was there when Gateway Services was in jeopardy of closing. They still have a homeless teen shelter – through the Crossroads program Gateway operates the only homeless teen shelter in the tri-county area providing shelter, food, and counseling to runaway and homeless youth including pregnant and parenting teens.
     Have you ever noticed that most of the runaways in Lansing are girls? What happens when there is no place for them to go to get help?
     The also have the Youth Crisis Intervention (Higher Ground) – Gateway provides 24-hour crisis intervention, emergency shelter, outpatient counseling (including sexual abuse) home visits, clinical assessment, substance abuse assessment and referral for youth ages (10-17).
     Do your research. The medical center that provided services to many in the community has closed due to lack of funding.
     The networks should create a reality show that people with attitudes about poverty should have to live in a ghetto for a month and use the same resources and pick characteristics that impoverished people usually have and see how well that works out.
     In that instance color would not matter. Staying one step ahead would, making sure that you are cover would. The networks should put the call out …. I am sure they will be sitting by the phone.



Rina Risper
“A staunch Demopublican and Republicrat”