You never know what local charity will teach you (sshhh – don’t tell the Effective Altruists).
For instance, I recently bought a copy of Street Sense, a local nonprofit newspaper written and sold by street people, and discovered a fascinating writer in its pages.
My vendor was Ashley McKinley, and after reading about her passion for yoga in the September 9 issue I chanced to read the article below hers, written by vendor Jeffery McNeil. He’s an African American whose thoughts on race and the Michael Brown case would not be allowed to surface on a major TV network or in a “respectable” newspaper.
Nor are you likely to hear a poor person being allowed to say similar things at the next Independent Sector or Council on Foundations meeting you attend. Unlike your typical talking head, in the media or the nonprofit sector, Mr. McNeil has criticism for both parties, as well as liberals and conservatives. Where the poor are concerned, he actually focuses on the question of whether they are, in fact, being helped by those who claim to speak for them. He also makes a priority of what struggling communities can and should do to help their own members.
In the interest of letting Truth speak to Power and allowing the marginalized a moment of respect, here are some excerpts from Mr. McNeil’s column. I suggest pondering them the next time you’re suffering through a long-winded spiel on Structural Racism in America:
Despite what pollsters and pundits say, America is not divided by color, class, or race.
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Since the days of W.E.B. DuBois, historically black civil rights groups, nonprofits and churches have claimed that political involvement is the way to economic advancement. However, evidence casts doubt on this claim. In spite of facing hostilities and bigotry, Asians, Indians and West Indian minorities have advanced economically despite having very little political representation or the backing of the kind of organizations that have worked for the African American community.
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I am not taking sides or defending the police officer that shot Mike Brown. While the military policing is disturbing, what has me scratching my head is the plethora of African American pastors, politicians and activists all breaking their necks to get on TV, claiming to be a voice for the downtrodden while their constituents sit there misguided, misled and broke.
You would think by now we would be hearing from a few dissenting voices questioning the failure of liberalism and black alignment with the Democratic Party….
I’m not suggesting Republicans are a better alternative to Democrats, however, members of the black community deserve better than Barack Obama, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
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How can you cry injustice, then justify looting and destroying the black businesses in your own community?
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As the events of Ferguson continue to unfold, you hear black leaders declare that “Now is the time to have an honest discussion.” I for one say that discussion should focus upon the question of why African Americans are unable to break away from the institutions that claim to help them but continually fail them.
FOOTNOTE: Jeffery McNeil’s writings for Street Sense are archived here, and in this essay he gives more of his background. I've written on structural racism for Philanthropy Daily and for Foundation Watch.