Thursday, July 30, 2009

Employers hold onto “just us” system

Letter to the editor

This is in response to an opinion piece in your July issue and the crippling circumstances in which an individual finds himself as a convicted level III sex offender.

Since I don’t know the specifics of the case it wouldn’t be prudent or fair to comment on that aspect of his situation. However, as an African American man living in Duluth I struggle with many of the same issues. Unemployment, the skewed just-us system and affordable housing just to name a few.

As you move about the city today be conscious of the faces around you. When you see the ubiquitous road crews around town do you see any black faces? Walk around down town through the shops and restaurants, any of those elusive black faces? Not yet eh? OK, try Bayfront, nothing yet? Not a bartender or server? Let’s try the minority owned Fond-Du-Luth casino, no?
I guess you see my point. Now go up to the jail or CHUM; or walk past the Kozy Bar- ah ha! Things that make you go, “Hmmm”.

I don’t mean to make light of such an insidious situation. I only wish to illuminate a symptom of the chronic disease called poverty.

The writer stated that the Department of Corrections is a business and to that end I have to agree, but in the business of what? This is an extremely complicated question and lest we grasp that basic premise I fear we can get sucked into a victim mentality. To be sure, the D.O.C. and the court system in general are inherently biased and many would say racist.
Now let us change gears a little and shift our focus. This situation is playing out all over this nation. So, what do we do? Exactly what he is doing, shining a light on the dark side of our quaint little community.

I applaud this one individual’s efforts to initiate a grass-roots approach in the form of a foundation (The Hands Up Foundation) and I wish him well.

I think this calls for the louder voices of the Duluth business community and social service agencies (not lip service agencies), the bedrock of any community.

If you won’t hire us how can we contribute economically? If you cut us how can you be angry because there’s blood on your pretty new rug?

The problems in “our” community are not a one sided coin. We need the business community to open its eyes and see us and then maybe together we can eat this elephant one bite at a time.
ames F. Robinson