Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Let's Give 'Em Something to Talk About....

If you didn't read Sunday's CA Viewpoint section, you missed a great article on the issues on which the candidates for October's mayor and City Council races should focus ("Talk Issues, Not Dirt," Blake Fontenay). I don't know about you, but I really would like to hear serious, constructive debate on issues I care about; issues that plague this city; issues that we need to address if we are going to move forward. Still in line with the Covenant With Memphis (post your ideas there too if you haven't), I thought we could give the candidates something to talk about.

So, let's continue what Blake started. What are the issues you would like to hear addressed? What ideas do you have and would like to hear discussed/debated? Let's give them something to talk about during this election cycle.

As for me, among a number of things, I want to hear about economic development and what each candidate (mayoral and council) plans to do to spawn economic development for all neighborhoods/people/groups in this city. Many neighborhoods in the inner-city are plagued with extreme poverty and are riddled with blight. Specifically, I want to hear real plans of action for drastically reducing the approx. 23% poverty rate; decreasing the unemployment rate (5.6% community wide; approx 11% in the Black community); creating real opportunities for minority/disadvantaged business participation in government contracting (Blacks get less than 1% of the business--Blacks make up 61% of the population!).

I'll pick one more. I want to hear candidates discuss their plans for creating racial harmony in this city. Who has a plan to bring this community together? Who amongst the candidates is not afraid to broach the topics of race and class in efforts of building us up? Who will step up and make us all realize we want the same things and that we won't get them until we come together?

So, what do you say--let's give them something to talk about!


Anonymous said...

You are probably one of the most progressive and promising young leaders in the City, and yet when I read your comments about racial reconciliation in Memphis, I am jolted with this bizarre skepticism that . . . no make that cynicism . . . that it's just talk. That no black person in Memphis could ever understand the hopes and desires of white Memphians, or would ever care to even try. That the black community in Memphis is profoundly racist and that no one from that community could ever speak for white Memphians without immediately having a sock put in it.

In my mind I know that's not right, but emotionally - as a 57 year old white woman and the mother of 3 white males all of whom grew up here and all of whom left because there is no opportunity for them here because of their race; as a white democrat who has never had any real opportunity to participate in my party at the local level in my lifetime because of my race; and on and on - this is where a lifetime of believing in civil rights for black people has brought me.

Stupid me. I thought that voter registration campaigns of my youth would help get black citizens elected to public office and that would make a real difference in eliminating the entrenched white "good ole boys" and the racism and poverty that plague our community. Instead the white "good ole boys" have been replaced by the black "good ole boys." And the solution to white racism has been to do the same in reverse twice over. And instead of working to eliminate poverty and improve education, blacks have squandered the opportunity of a chosen generation, defined themselves through the misogynous culture of Rap music and gangster ethic, and presented themselves as "victims" instead of leaders.

I believed in black people when I was young. I thought they would bring a better and stronger character to the spirit and leadership of our country. I don't believe that anymore.

Tomeka Hart said...

One of the biggest problems with this city is that for whatever reason, people can't get past the racial scars, won't talk about them constructively and thus can't produce any solutions so that we can move forward. You are not unlike many who are skeptical and cynical.

We certainly can't progress by continuing to do what we've been doing. The generalizations made about Whites and Blacks do nothing to move us forward. Putting an entire race of people in the same basket does nothing to move us forward. Neither group is monolithic.

Clearly there are plenty of Black and White people who do understand each other--do understand the hopes and desires of each other. It's unfortunate that you have generalized the entire Black community as profoundly racist. It's just as unfortunate that some generalize the entire White community as racist. That kind of thinking says plenty about those who harbor those thoughts/feelings.

However, those of us who are progressive know that there's another way--a better way--to see things. Those of us who are progressive strongly believe that smart, intelligent people can work together to understand, appreciate and capitalize on their differences. Smart, intelligent people realize that in this 21st century world, we will not progress by holding on to the old way of thinking and seeing things. Smart, intelligent people know that they have to come outside of themselves, and maybe step outside of their comfort zones to see things from various perspectives and then use that newly developed perspective to take a step forward and affect positive change.

While we may not agree on how to get them, we all want the same things--a safe community; high-performing school systems; an educated/prepared workforce; high paying jobs; great neighborhoods; etc.

Isn't that enough to at least begin the smart, intelligent dialogue that needs to take place? Progressive people will think it's plenty, and they will respond to the call to action to do just that (coming soon!).

Anonymous said...

There is not one thing you say (elegantly) that I disagree with. But our perspectives on race, in this community and many others across the nation, are really at - or are fast approaching - a tipping point, one that I fear. Your belief in progressive people is laudable, but progress does not occur in a vacuum.

Whether we like it or not race is a political intention in this country. There exists a group of people - a fairly monolithic group - that promotes and pursues their racial history as a present entitlement. They cause an inordinate amount of our local and national energy - social, political, and economic - to be consumed by this; by addressing our racial past as if it is a present issue. Nothing is produced out of it. No wealth is generated by it. No debt is paid as a result of it. No national enemies are disarmed because of it. No social healing is accomplished by it. And no leadership emerges from it.

It is a sore spot. We keep banging on it with oratorical hammers and pretending to be shocked that it stays sore. One lifetime is enough of it for me. I'm moving on and I'm investing my confidence and support in people who are moving on too.

Anonymous said...

T - completely agree w/ you on econ devel (for everyone) and racial harmony as priority issues. Others include education (near and dear to you, I know) and crime. We will never be able to lure good job-producing companies here w/o quality public education and crime control. As a native Memphian, I am about as discouraged as I've ever been about the real prospect for racial harmony -- particularly with the same poor leadership we've had for too long ... but believe the answer is in sincere, intelligent and motivated leaders such as you. We, the voters, have to demand not only "talk" about the issues from the candidates, but demand accountability for "action" once elected.

Eileen said...

Good post.