Benign Neglect

Benign Neglect

khlaid Photo1cropThis month marks the celebration of a unique and momentous event in the political history of the United States, namely the resignation of Richard Nixon as the 37th president of the United States.

Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974 amid controversy connected to the Watergate scandal during his administration and the subsequent attempted cover-up and obstruction of justice. Faced with the likelihood of a successful congressional impeachment or forced removal from office, Nixon decided on the less excruciating choice of resignation.

As a successor to President Lyndon Johnson, the Nixon administration witnessed the emergence and popularity of various Black Power and Black Liberation formations throughout the Black/New Afrikan community. The Nixon administration also witnessed increased popular support, especially among youth and students, for ending the war in Vietnam.

Many Black/New Afrikan communities were still simmering from the days and nights of riot and rebellion associated with the murder and assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April of 1968.

Against this backdrop, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of Nixon’s chief advisors on urban affairs suggested that perhaps the most efficient method for dealing with Blacks/New Afrikans, and the international political embarrassment associated with their poverty and brutal oppression was to simply ignore them. Categorically deny their existence, and let them die and wither away. The term used was benign neglect.

Merriam-Webster defines benign neglect as “an attitude or policy of ignoring an often delicate or undesirable situation that one is held to be responsible for.”

And so, for decades since the 1960’s, America has been involved in the unwritten and unofficial policy of benign neglect: basically, the purposeful neglect and marginalization of the Black/New Afrikan community, especially the working poor and low-income. Nameless, faceless persons, constructed images used to facilitate racist notions of white-supremacy and Black inferiority.

Occasionally, the cover is forcefully exposed. For example, the tragedies associated with the victims and survivors of Hurricane Katrina and more recently, the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Many urban areas, having adapted to decades of Jim Crow and de-facto segregation, were now dealing with the collateral damage experienced as a result of the rebellions of the 1960’s. These communities were subsequently abandoned and red-lined by white business and financial institutions.

More recently, those same inner-city areas and neighborhoods are now being ‘discovered’ and developed by collaborative legions of local public officials, misguided non-profits, financial institutions and land speculators.
This has resulted in the wholesale displacement of entire neighborhoods, school-closings and the dispersion and re-concentration of disproportionate poverty and violence in outlying county areas.

Metropolitan centers such as New York, Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago have been experiencing this process for several years. More recently, Pittsburgh, PA and Allegheny County can be added to the mix.

This flawed and racist practice has gained undeserved legitimacy and legal protection through the creation and passage of various types of ‘Land Bank’ legislation. These laws make it easier for land speculators and so-called developers to grab entire tracts of properties in a single sweep and bypass any significant overview and sanction by elected officials of those districts.
The new forms of ‘benign neglect’ have greatly contributed to the re-concentration of poverty, educational failure, violence and hyper-gentrification. Let’s stop this madness.

Justice in our Lifetime,
Khalid Raheem
President & CEO
National Council for Urban Peace and Justice (www.ncupj.net)

And The Band Played On….,

khlaid Photo1cropIn recent weeks, residents of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have been subject to an almost continuous onslaught of murder and aggravated assaults. Much of the murder and mayhem has occurred in working-class and low-income communities inhabited by the poor and people of color.

To date, there have been over fifty-five (55) homicides throughout Allegheny County. The murder victims have been disproportionately Black/New Afrikan males under the age of forty. Possible motives for the rash of shootings and killings include personal disputes, robbery, drugs, retaliation, neighborhood conflicts, police-involved and domestic argument.

I contend that such violence is rooted in decades of  racism, white-supremacy, self/group hatred, poverty and structural inequality.

While numerous individuals and community organizations scramble about in a frenzy of activities such as consoling family and friends of victims, helping with funerals, erecting memorials, a basic question remains unanswered: where is the outrage and sense of urgency?

No, not on the part of the communities. They continue to respond as best they know how, in spite of all the stereotypes, racist ridicule and structural inequalities heaped upon their neighborhoods and families.

They cry, plea, march, protest and rally for help and assistance in addressing the cycles and episodes of violence. A painful cycle  that others have become all too familiar with.

My question is directed to the public officials, corporate community and foundations: where is the outrage and sense of urgency from you? County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Council, Pittsburgh City Council.

And, lets not forget the Pittsburgh School Board under the leadership of Superintendent Linda Lane. How could you possibly close and consolidate schools and not have a plan for violence prevention and intervention?

Were you not advised, for example, that placing ALL NORTH SIDE  STUDENTS IN ONE HIGH SCHOOL could be problematic? Did you not prepare?

For our State Representatives and State Senators, the questions also apply.  Why has there been no coordinated and comprehensive plan to address urban violence in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County? Why are you able to expeditiously facilitate and pass legislation protecting police-dogs and exorbitant traffic tickets for veterans, but can’t seem to get it together to help coordinate and substantially fund violence prevention and intervention programs for the city and county.

The state legislature and Pittsburgh City Council had  little problem proposing, creating and facilitating the Land Bank legislation. Legislation, which ultimately will speed-up the displacement and dispersion of yet additional urban residents and populations.

Over two (2) years ago, myself and others such as Richard Garland from the University of Pittsburgh’s Violence Prevention Project privately and publicly shared our concerns about the deadly confluence of circumstances that were becoming commonplace throughout the Pittsburgh area. For example, the following:

  •  persistent double-digit unemployment within the Black/New Afrikan community
  • over 40% unemployment for Black youth,
  • school closings AND consolidations
  • the closing and demolition of public housing
  • with corresponding population displacement and dispersion

I personally submitted a proposal to Allegheny County (County Executives’ Office) that addressed the need for comprehensive proactive and strategic efforts at violence prevention and intervention, but never heard from them.

After convening and operating your ‘Public Health Commission’ for over a year, you finally produced a report(www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs) in June of 2014. Meanwhile, the shootings and homicides continued throughout the years and have never abated.

City and county public officials can ‘find money’ to support all types of special projects and initiatives, but can’t seem to muster the political will to provide strategic long-term funding for violence prevention and intervention initiatives that benefit  Black and low-income communities.

The foundations are no better. They expect groups and organizations to ‘walk on water’, ‘feed multitudes’ and do mountains of work with basically no substantive funding. They devalue our work and the neighborhoods and communities that we live and work in. However, they don’t blink about funding the opera or some pet project for twenty consecutive years!

The foundation community also seems to have no problem funding long-term initiatives that ultimately will lead to gentrification and improvements for those moving into those targeted neighborhoods (for example, Hazelwood, East Liberty, North Side). Although, not stated, this approach condemns the current residents to a miserable existence, with eventual displacement as the cure. Their families and communities are being sacrificed for the future benefit of  the middle-to-upper income white-folks or ‘hipsters’.

It seems as though many of our public officials and so-called community leaders are more concerned with protecting the image and myth of Pittsburgh as the ‘most livable city’ and lining their pockets with money from developers, instead of providing a decent quality of life for some of our most vulnerable and exploited citizens. Even as I write this commentary, yet another person has been murdered. Their body was just discovered in North View Heights. The people need help now.

 

Justice In Our Lifetime,

Khalid Raheem

Justice for Jordan Miles! Justice for Homewood youth!

Attended rally for Jordan Miles this afternoon. Jordan Miles is the young African-American male viciously attacked and beaten by undercover Pittsburgh police in January of 2010 (www.justiceforjordanmiles.com). At the time, Jordan was a high school senior at CAPA, the Pittsburgh school for the performing arts. No previous encounters with the criminal justice system and an honors student, Jordan Miles was targeted by racist undercover officers because of his race and the neighborhood that he resides in: Homewood.

You see, Homewood is a majority Black neighborhood filled with working class and poor people. The majority are law-abiding citizens who are often underpaid, underemployed or no job at all. A neighborhood with lots of empty lots, abandoned houses and abandoned dreams.  Like many of  the urban wastelands that dominate the landscape  of the United States, some youth and adults have embraced the deadly and self-destructive culture of hustling drugs as a mechanism for survival. Hence,  the racial and socio-economic profiling of an entire neighborhood and all of its youthful inhabitants.

Black youth who reside or pass through Homewood are prime targets for police intrusion, misconduct and brutality. Such barbaric behavior is often justified with a casual reference to the neighborhood in which it occurred. We must stand up for Jordan Miles and demand justice! We must stand up and demand justice for Homewood!

Police officers Richard Ewing, David Sisak and Michael Saldutte must be indicted, charged and removed from the Pittsburgh Police Department. They must never again be given legal authority to terrorize the Black community.

WELCOME

Welcome to the official blog for the NATIONAL COUNCIL  FOR URBAN PEACE AND JUSTICE AND THE URBAN PEACE AND JUSTICE MOVEMENT!

Please feel free to share your ideas,  news, commentary and criticism as  we engage in discussion regarding the urban peace and justice movement.

The National Council for Urban Peace and Justice continues  to be in the vanguard of the struggle to end the epidemic of urban violence. This violence is often fueled by combinations of racism, white-supremacy, deteriorating social conditions, self-hatred, decadence and public policies of ‘benign neglect’. Throughout it all, the NCUPJ has maintained an uncompromising commitment to the urban peace and justice movement.