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May 14, 2008

A Failure to Communicate

Tom McLaughlin

In my last column, I said I would contact Black leaders to try to answer my questions about the perceived new relationship between Blacks and Whites. I didn’t. The reason is lack of courage.


I am afraid I would damage my relationship with them. Yes, a coward with a big yellow streak down my back. I did not want to admit to them I did not understand and lose their valuable friendship. I thought I knew where I was, my emotions, my sense of empathy and my righteous anger.


I feel like I am heading out to sea in a storm. Or, maybe I don’t like meeting people, even friends, with a question unless I know the answer. Here are some things I do know and they remain part of my core values.


A reader asked about “gangsta” rap. There is no doubt in my mind that it has a negative effect on both Blacks and Whites. No woman is a whore, or hoe, or, however, you say it. A lady, who struggles to raise children in near impossible conditions, drags herself home after working at a menial job, does not deserve that label. Nobody does.


Several Black leaders have approached the artists of these “songs.” and asked them to change or modify their tune. But there is just too much money involved. Both Black and White children buy the stuff, and it’s a multi-million dollar industry. Does it affect perceptions? Of course, it does. The way Whites view Blacks and the way Blacks view themselves.


Another reader asked about poverty. Jobs do make a difference. A McDonald’s opened in Harlem and there was a line of job applicants that stretched around a few blocks. In New York, those blocks are big. A study showed that 75% of those who secured employment advanced to other positions such as assistant managers and then managers in the food and retail industry. I think 75% is a lot.


I have a love/hate relationship with Wal-Mart. In Worcester County, which has the highest unemployment rate in Maryland, it provides a job, low paying and menial at best, but a job. However, you won’t find any people of color working there.


In Ocean City, they import White workers from overseas. First it was the Irish, but when their economy exploded, the town fathers went to Eastern Europe to secure workers. Here, at a place where there is such high unemployment among people of color. You can bet they won’t go to the Congo seeking people.


I asked one restaurant owner why they wouldn’t hire locals. They said they tried. I asked if they would hire Blacks to do things other than take out the trash. No answer.


Another reader pointed out that education is the tool whereby Blacks will be able to advance from poverty. This is true. However, when home life and economics do not allow for the purchase of books, magazines and newspapers to encourage reading, and when many parents cannot read themselves, this continues to foster the lack of educational values. It is a vicious cycle.


Soon, this September, Worcester County will open its first vocational school thanks to Commission President Virgil Shockley, a good Democrat. Hopefully, this will lift many out of the cycle, providing training for high paying jobs in the service sector.


I will try to get my courage up over the next few weeks, knock on doors and ask the tough questions. Until then, please keep your e-mails coming. I haven’t answered them because I am too embarrassed to admit I haven’t done my part. Thanks for doing yours.

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