I was perusing the Internet the other day and saw a Facebook post by a local community activist and man of the cloth who professed that he had traveled to several states over the past couple of weeks. The other day he felt like he had traveled to two different countries and all he had done was visit the North Shore and the South Side. Someone else commented that they felt the same way and all they had to do was leave Oak Park and cross the street into Austin.
Both comments are correct and yet the difference in locations has more to do with people’s respect for where they live and less to do with the economic status of the residents. For the life of me, I cannot understand why we here in Austin have to live with people who have no problem littering with every step they take. Whether it’s water bottles filled with urine tossed in the alleys or the residue of edibles thrown on front lawns and into major streets, why do we have people who do this without shame?
Where does the impoverished mindset come from that has, over the past 50 years, ingrained itself so deeply? It starts with many who are the “poverty pimps,” benefitting from a broken down, dirty and “in need” black community. Rather than empower black folks with uplifting messages, those individuals constantly promote how the other side is greener without pointing out “why” and “how” they got that way.
Let’s take a look at the communities of Austin and Oak Park. Notice I didn’t say “versus” because that immediately places us in the wrong mindset of conflict. Both areas have stately frame houses and sturdy brick bungalows. Both locations have tree-lined streets and schools filled with young minds. The biggest difference between the two areas is as simple as the mindset of the folks living in each. The question is how to get the Austin side to take as much pride on our side as the folks do on the other side of Austin Boulevard. And taking that pride starts with a simple mind shift.
The first step in our mindset change is challenging our biggest fight, fear and fantasy. If we solve the core of the problem, we can progress forward. The one reality we must accept so we can move forward is this: No one will save us but us. If you don’t agree, just look at how we have allowed eight years of President Obama to put us on hold in terms of progress as we waited for him to do something for us instead of having our own plan and making him implement it. We can’t afford to wait for saviors because waiting is like pausing a movie. As long as the movie is paused, nothing happens. But real time never pauses. Time continues on and therein lies our dilemma: We think we have put things on hold, but time continues on, leaving us in one spot while the world moves on.