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Words Hurt and Policies Do Too

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor

Unjust systems and structures remain in place because people do not demand a better world.   
                     –  Lisa Sharon Harper


Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

Racism is a tool used to maintain a system of social, political and economic control. Sometimes racism is explicit. At other times, this ignoble apparatus of manipulation is embedded in the camouflage of anti-black structures in order to accomplish its goals more subtly. The truth is, that whether explicit or implicit, racism hurts and requires us to seek our own healing.

I am deeply concerned and troubled by Toledo City Councilman Tom Waniewski’s recent reprehensible comments in which he compared the African-American patrons of a bar to cockroaches. The portrayal of minorities in non-human terms has, historically, been effectively used to manipulate public opinion in order to justify the exploitation and mistreatment of blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans.

Think of the concepts and terms associated with the word cockroach and how they send a message as to how blacks are to be perceived and therefore be treated: teeming, pester, swarm, overrun, undesirable, unacceptable, troublesome, to name a few. Or, nasty, filth, scourge, or contamination. And, the most troubling, perhaps, exterminate.

Waniewski is a political leader who has previously expressed anti-black sentiment and his most recent comment is in keeping with a worsening racist climate that has become more overt than it has been in previous decades. This kind of rhetoric, when coming from political leaders, tends to embolden and exacerbate racial animus and thus lead to increased occurrences of hate crimes.

Where are those capable of leading us into a better world?

The lack of response from elected officials is most disheartening to me because it is an indication of where our leaders truly stand on the issue of race.

Where were comments condemning these hateful remarks by Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, the three Lucas County Commissioners and from Democratic Party Chair Kurt Young? Or, in particular, from Waniewski’s potential successors - District 5 candidates Sam Melden, Connor Kelley or Republican candidate Tom Names?

And, why didn’t we hear from current City Council members, including those of color such as Tyrone Riley, Larry Sykes, Yvonne Harper, Cecelia Adams or Gary Johnson.

For certain, words do hurt and silence emboldens the inflicting of even more pain.

I’d like to think that the issue of race - the institution that “broke America at its foundations,” would be enough on its own to generate an emphatic response from our leaders that says ‘We cannot and will not accept it here in this City.’

 On the other hand, if dehumanizing rhetoric is an indicator of anti-black sentiment, it is the “normative, seemingly civilized racism that is the racial monster we must work hard to defeat,” says scholar Eduardo Bonilla-Silva.

By civilized, Bonilla-Silva is referring to seemingly non-racial market dynamics, structures and policies which “justify the contemporary racial order of things that keeps minorities disadvantaged and explains black and brown poverty, high unemployment and higher incarceration rates.”

Civilized Racism Hurts Too

Several months ago, a few of us in the community came together to call attention to TARTA’s weekend service cuts, which were enacted without proper public input and lacked an appropriate assessment of the impact on disadvantaged communities.  These cuts have caused disproportionate damage to the lives of those who could afford it the least. 

Today, that situation has still not changed.  The cuts continue, the damage to lives continues as TARTA’s leadership continues to leave disadvantaged and people of color out at the curb, defaulting on its core mission to transport people to and from places like work, grocery stores and church.

With no public transportation, TARTA also threatens the 1200 new Amazon jobs coming to Rossford, or at least leaves poor and communities of color out of the mix, the result which not only perpetuates poverty, but chokes economic and workforce development.

Now, TARTA will tell you that they were left with no choice but to eliminate access for many of its most vulnerable clients because of its inability to change its antiquated system and tax structure.

Despite placing minorities out front to cape hard for them, however, the truth is that TARTA’s policy decisions have appeared to be anti-people of color; anti-people who use mobility aids; anti-people who are poor; and anti-economic and workforce development.

Moreover, leadership has failed to garner the support to change their antiquated structure. Yet, the transit authority remains stuck at a standstill.

What is needed to move forward equitably and responsibly?

 First, TARTA needs leadership that will listen to the entire community— in board rooms, community centers and church basements—and revitalize the IDEA of equitable contemporary public transportation in this community.

 Second, TARTA needs leadership that is competent to build a consensus from central city to suburb to township on how TARTA can serve EVERYONE in this community.

 Third, TARTA needs leadership that can galvanize public support for mass transit in this community, not mime while it withers away.

So, if you’ve been listening to the things that are being said or paying attention to the things being done (or not done), the results are clear:

 It’s time for a change.

We need new leadership.

Both at Toledo City Council and at TARTA. 

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at drdlperryman@centerofhopebaptist.org



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/01/19 23:40:20 -0400.



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