A lesson learned from childhood was that when you make a mess, you clean it. I understand that some responsible parties did just that in the earnest community clean up on Tuesday, April 28th. That was the visible material mess. What about the more difficult and embedded societal mess that lingers, invisible to many?
The informative article in The Sun "The U.S. has yet to make good on its promise of reparations to black Americans" (Feb. 27) by Karsonya Wise Whitehead and Conra Gist is worth reviewing. It challenges us to "understand the structures, practices and norms" that led to the present and "persistent pattern of inequality," the big societal mess of economic disparity, lengthy prison sentences, disintegration of the family, lack of educational opportunities, decent paying jobs and affordable housing in Baltimore City. This article caught my attention in March while I was on a mission of personal reparation in Central America due to U.S. funded wars waged there in the last century. I cannot bring back loved ones killed in those wars, but my faith pushes me to do something. I was encouraged to learn that "conversations about reparations are not about money, but about people and the way they are seen and valued in society."
This certainly fits the three Central American countries in the Northern Triangle, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where the poor are the majority, many of whom are disenfranchised indigenous. They were and are treated as cheap labor for the European conquerors and their progeny who could then amass great wealth. Thus, the poor live in an unjust economy, in an oppressive society, and in constant fear due to growing gang violence fueled by the northern bound lucrative drug trade. One parish priest spoke openly about where the dead bodies are found, not in the wealthy neighborhoods, but in the poor "barrios."
When I returned to Baltimore in April, I found great cause to revisit this article and reflect on how I can act responsibly for the common good in this "clean up" in my adopted city and my country. Baltimore's WYPR interviewed Loyola Business Professor Karyl B. Leggio. Her distinct words of wisdom advised that the solution is not to focus on outside corporations coming in, but to involve the local community in developing small businesses. Such small and sustainable enterprises build self esteem and confidence and are empowering. That happens to be part of my reparation efforts in Central America.
Years ago, as a teacher, I had visited New Song Academy, a star that still shines brilliantly. I recently heard from competent leaders about excellent organizations in this struggling neighborhood. People have talent, skills, energy, determination, enthusiasm, etc. They are good judges of their needs and abilities. Involve and invest in the local folk. That might be better than Wall Street!
A thoughtful young African American friend reminded me that it is more important to focus not on our differences, as that can divide us, but on what we have in common as human beings, in order to construct a better future for all. Two women from different countries reminded me that "we are all in this (societal clean up) together" and indeed we are! Let us capitalize on the potential we have in our midst.
Sister Patricia A. Rogucki, Baltimore