Sunday, November 18, 2007

Deborah Blanks: Part of Milwaukee's problems, not their solution

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl wrote today of a letter and recording he received from a resident of Milwaukee's inner city who captured what she described as the precursor to another fatal shooting. It's poignant reading (and listening).

The letter writer chronicles her pain at yet another senseless round of trash talk by young black men in her neighborhood with nothing better to do that led to another senseless death. What she described -- and her pain and frustration -- are very real. The people who live in the community experience that -- and worse -- almost every day.

Stingl's column is timely. He doesn't mention Milwaukee's incoming police chief but the new chief would do well to pay attention to this and the other signs of a community in a state of siege.

Stingl, however, didn't quite finish his work.

The letter and recording was sent to Deborah Blanks who for the last ten years has been the head honcho at the Social Development Commission, Milwaukee's "community action" agency.

What was Blanks' reaction? She called the letter and recording "chilling reminders of how our society has failed community residents."

And that's not all. This purveyor of "victim mentality" that continues to enslave the poor goes to blame these ills on an ordained "separate but unequal" society: "What was not intended or predicted were the consequences of people whose spirit has been broken. Isolated, alienated and disenfranchised, they have let their anger at society and themselves implode into substance abuse and explode into crimes and violence."

Oh, spare us, dear Ms. Blanks.

It's been under your watch for the past ten years that Milwaukee's violent crime rate has continued to soar. You fail to mention this when you indict others.

The first part of the failed analysis begins with the whine that "society has failed community residents."

Wrong.

It's the other way around, Deborah. The community's residents have failed society. (And, in turn, the slackers have failed the community.)

Maybe you don't remember President John F. Kennedy's 1961 inauguration speech. This one sentence sums it up: "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country."

Society owes little, if anything, to anyone. We owe society.

You want to talk about past wrongs? Fine. There's some merit to that but when you talk about the evils of slavery remember that the overwhelming majority of men who were killed trying to end it were white.

And it was a horrible wrong that black men who fought for this country in World War II came home to find that they couldn't have an equal shot at a job, or an education or even to sit down in a restaurant.

Those wrongs caused many of us to become involved in the civil rights movement.

We enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most sweeping civil rights legislation in history. That was followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and a myriad of other laws to correct those injustices at the state, federal and local level.

We threw billions upon billions of dollars into antipoverty programs -- Model Cities, Head Start, Job Corps, to name a few. Unfortunately many of the people who ran those programs often failed to deliver anything except receipts for their own wages.

A local judge says it best: "One father can take the place of a dozen social workers." The impetus for change comes from the bottom up, Deborah. The city, county, state or federal government can't change anyone who doesn't want to change.

When a child enters kindergarten (and we have programs that start earlier than that, too) he or she begins a dozen or so years of free education. Free or reduced priced breakfasts and lunches, too, for the poor. What that child chooses to make of himself or herself in life is up to him or her.

Of course, a good home environment counts. Parents who have and share appropriate values can make a world of difference. That's true -- but even that's no guarantee that a child will turn out as a productive, law-abiding citizen (look at how many affluent people screw up their lives with alcohol and drugs).

Deborah, stop whining and start doing something for the money you've been getting for the last decade. No job? Hey, do you think blowing off your education might have had something to do with that? No education? That's your own fault. No job training? Ditto.

The problem with improving things is that we always expect someone else to do it.

I'd love to be able to have someone else find a way for me to lose weight so I wouldn't have to do it. That's not going to happen.

Change starts from within. "Society" has poured billions of dollars and countless hours into trying to improve things for the less advantaged with checkered results. The failure of our efforts, of course, can be traced to another old adage: "Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he can eat for a lifetime." Of course, the man has to be willing to learn how to fish.

Yes, there have been individual success stories and it would be wrong to deny them. But spare us the "victim mentality" crap. We can't force people to change. We can pass laws, build schools, pay teachers and buy books but that means squat if someone blows off their education.

So, Deborah, maybe it's time for you to get up off your hiney, can the "victim mentality" crap and do something to earn the money you've been making for the last ten years. Instead of blaming everyone else, it's time for you to send the message: "Ask not what society can do for you but what you can do for society."

And Jim -- what kind of journalist are you that you missed all of this? Sheesh.



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