“This is not new…and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new. It is a situation that we have been dealing with for decades.”
President Barak Obama
The president is right of course. The clashes between the police and the public that we are witnessing in Baltimore are only the latest in a series of similar incidents that have plagued our society for decades. And as we have done for so many years, we talk about the police brutality and the violence as if by addressing these issues we can solve the problem. While these conversations are relevant they miss the far larger point. Police brutality, lawlessness and violence are not the cause of unrest. They are the result of an inherent problem woven deep into the fabric of our society.
Imagine if you had to take 3, 4 or 5 different buses to reach a dead end job that didn’t pay you enough to feed your family. Imagine if you had to send your children to a school that due to underfunding and poor teachers you knew was not preparing your child to build a better life than you had. Imagine if the gentrification of your neighborhood resulted in not the raising of the value of your property but its elimination to make way for a new ballpark or convention center or entertainment district. Then imagine if you found yourself profiled not just for the color of your skin but because you and your family were considered “less than” by society. How would you feel?
What we are witnessing in Baltimore and Ferguson and thousands of cities across this country is what despair looks like. It is what happens when people, regardless of race, see no hope…no way out. We can weed out the bad cops and require police officers to attend sensitivity training classes. We can incarcerate the looters and the arsonists and ramp up the social safety net programs. None of this will begin to solve the problem.
There is an undervalued segment in our society that is being ignored. Only by helping them value themselves can we lift them out of that despair. Only by helping them to respect themselves can we help them to respect the rule of law. There is only one way to do that and it is spelled J-O-B-S.
There will always be rogue cops who exploit their authority. There will always be looters and arsonists and thugs who want to foment violence. The only way to reduce them to the minority they are is to raise up the quality of life of the communities. The only way to do that is through good paying meaningful jobs. Only by helping individuals to earn their way out of despair can we uplift these communities and quell the violence and bigotry.
To those who would politicize this issue for political gain, as Ted Cruz did yesterday, I would suggest that they remain silent less their words illuminate their ignorance. This is not a conservative issue. Reducing taxes on the wealthy and expecting the benefits to trickle down to the masses doesn’t work. Nor is this a progressive issue. Adding another social safety net program doesn’t work either. You have to find a way to give people an opportunity to help themselves. The only way to do that is by providing them with the opportunity to work at good paying jobs. Private industry can’t do it by itself. The problem is too big. It is up to the government to find a solution.
Since the death of Freddie Gray we have heard one politician after another speak out against the violence in Baltimore. But yet not one has announced that he/she is sponsoring a comprehensive jobs bill that will put people to work. Not one has done his/her job by offering the only long range solution to the problem.
If we are serious about wanting to eliminate the brutality and blight and violence that plagues so many of our communities then we have to find a way to help people help themselves.