Sunday, April 15, 2007

Councilwoman's outburst symptomatic of deeper issues*

It is hard to know what to make of Sabra Pierce Scott's verbal explosion last week at a city council caucus meeting. The Glenville area representative lambasted her white colleagues for not stepping up and sharing the blame she and her fellow black council members are receiving from constituents. Piling on are editorial writers at the Call and Post, the city's oldest black newspaper, now under the direction of George Forbes, editorial boss disguised as chief legal counsel.

The criticism revolves around the city's inability to stem the decay raging in many neighborhoods. The devastation has been wreaked by predatory criminals. Some wear oversized clothing and pack guns; others wear suits and offer easy mortgage money on impossible terms. When you add in a hostile justice system, a population marginalized by inferior educational opportunities, and the earliest and greatest vulnerability to the consequences of globalization, your local councilperson appears to be the closest official to assault in the face of so much indiscriminate and impersonal oppression.

Black city council people are perhaps too busy dodging these verbal brickbats to notice that over in Slavic Village the same systemic events are playing out. There the victims are older, white "ethnics" repeatedly burglarized, brutalized and ultimately exterminated by neighborhood thugs. It was charitable of Scott's white colleagues not to point out that neither she nor other black council people were heard to denounce Slavic Village terror.

But that is how we are organized in this town. Plain Dealer columnist Feagler is the designated mourner for the good old days when black people knew their place and hard working whites could harbor dreams of moving up and out. On alternate days, Plain Dealer columnist Fulwood is charged with deciphering what the black folks are doing and explaining that to the rest of us. And once a week, or whenever he deems it useful, Forbes directs the Call and Post to administer a race-based beat-down on whatever target he designates.

Meanwhile, the suburban puppet masters who still control all the key institutions sit around scratching their heads and contemplating whether regionalism or total abandonment is the answer.

Ladies and gentlemen, as a dear friend of mine likes to say, this is a "stuck fight": everybody is right, everybody wants to win, and nobody is willing to step aside and take a larger and more critical view. We have each become comfortable in our afflictions.

All of these public players -- whether officials, industry leaders, or opinion shapers -- are acting out roles in a disaster epic. Most are being paid handsomely for their roles in deflecting attention from the seriousness of the problems. Their collective pontification and caterwauling mask the giant sucking sound of a city, county and region headed down the drain amid a chorus of irrelevant accusations about who and what got us into this mess.

It is way past time to stop this nonsense. The finger pointing and moaning need to stop.

The city has a mayor in Frank Jackson who appears to understand this. He listens, analyzes, speaks softly and without exaggeration, and then acts. He is leading by example. Will we listen? Will we follow? Will he move fast enough? Are we ready to abandon our roles in this stuck-fight farce?
* originally published at Cleveland OH in The Eastside News, April 3-6, 2007.

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