Bad People Not to Blame; Poverty is the Culprit

In response to the civil unrest in Charlotte after the shooting death of an African American man by a police officer and news that Chicago will hire up to 1,000 new police officers due to an unprecedented increase in murders and violence, three Alliance for Strong Families and Communities staff share their perspectives and their calls to action for the social sector.

Undraye Howard, vice president of the Alliance's Center on Leadership shares his views below. Read first post in the series from Susan Dreyfus, Alliance president and CEO. Comments from Jennifer Jones, director of child and family systems innovation, will be posted Sept. 28.

In reflecting on the recent events in Tulsa and Charlotte, I will join the chorus, as an African American man, and say that the problem is not “bad cops” who kill African American men. The majority of police officers across this country serve dutifully and many times go above and beyond the call of duty in delivering great service and even sacrificing their lives.

Nor is the problem “bad African American men,” because the majority are doing the right thing in providing for their family and serving in their community.

The problem and culprit here is poverty. Of course, this is a very broad problem, and there are many derivatives. But until we recognize the real problem, we as a country will continue to have the unnecessary killings of African American men on our streets.

To effectively deal with poverty, we must use a multi-faceted approach which addresses the systems which feed into this, including our criminal justice, education, healthcare, housing, and economic systems. And of course, the power of equity—equal access and opportunity—being infused throughout these systems to ensure there is a just, fair, and inclusive playing field cannot be denied.

So we must go beyond more police on the street. Please, do not get me wrong, I believe we need law enforcement in neighborhoods to keep peace and civility. In addition, I agree there are areas within our cities which require additional attention in addressing crime. But putting more police on the street can’t be the only answer. In fact, the answer to an adaptive challenge is an adaptive solution.

I’d like to propose increasing more responsible and engaging community policing, which means police officers walking throughout the neighborhoods and building relationships with the citizens they are serving. This is done in tandem with human-serving and community-based organizations and leaders.

Also, focus on the economics. Creating and developing economic enterprise zones for businesses that are willing to invest more into suppressed neighborhoods and communities, making more accessible life sustaining employment coupled with soft skills support and training. And, investing in entrepreneurs who need bank loans and other collateral in developing and creating viable businesses that create employment for others.

Invest in high quality childcare and early education for our children, which has proven to be beneficial in building the foundation for skill sets which enable better education, higher paying jobs, and wealth-building earnings. This also means a greater understanding of important brain science research showing how much more we need to invest in science-informed policy.

We must have real dialogue, and action, around race! If I can be so plain here: America has not completely dealt with its race problem. We have not done enough engaging each other in real dialogue without ostracizing the other side. This means we have not built real relationships amongst different cultures so it becomes a natural occurrence. It means we have not held others accountable, especially those close to us who say and feel egregious things and spread falsehoods about individuals based on that they are “different.” It does mean creating real relationships with each other—even if we completely disagree at times—we still can talk. It means hearing all voices in the equation—even those that are polarizing and disruptive, in hopes that we can come to some shared understanding and meaning. Finally, it does mean being true to ourselves and recognizing the value each human being brings to the table. It does mean being a rEvolutionary leader!

The best part of all of this is that the Alliance members and the sector are already engaged in doing all of this. But we must all continue to do more and rise and be a strong voice for and with our communities, neighborhoods, and citizens. I hope one day the senseless killings of African American men will stop. I just offer one way to think about how we can achieve this goal.

Post new comment

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
Refresh Type the characters you see in this picture.
Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.  Switch to audio verification.
©2015 Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. All Rights Reserved