Take another look at Pisgah View

I live in Pisgah View Apartments, along with my wife and three daughters. During my seven years here, I have seen some horrible things; I have also seen some absolutely wonderful things that give me great hope for the future of Asheville and humanity. But I have seen so much emphasis and media coverage of the negative, and I wonder why an equal amount of time and space is not given to the good things going on here.

If I insinuated that the bias in reporting is racist in intent, there would be a hue and cry that I am playing the race card unfairly. Yet with all the bumper stickers that proclaim “End Racism,” it seems someone would stand up and admit that this practice—which all but a few diehards claim to deplore—is the catalyst that has caused the breakdown in the African-American community.

By no stretch of the imagination am I saying that anyone is guilty for the bad choices being made in my community—after all, we may not choose the conditions under which we live, but we are responsible for the way we choose to overcome them.

What I am saying is this: There is no superior race, but there are superior people in all races. When will those who have the power and authority focus on those who do care and who do want to be a part of a positive change, rather than point at the few (yes, it is only a few) who make the bad choices and use those few to continue to subjugate a people?

I lose count of the news reports of increased funding for more police or a new jail, yet I know it costs more to house a human being in prison than to educate them.

We have a member of the City Council who has made it his life’s work to eradicate drugs in public housing, yet all he has placed in our community to fill the void of the drug dealer are some trash cans. Like it or not, the drug dealer is a source of income to many, and the sale of drugs is about economics. Ask any drug dealer if he or she had a choice, would drug dealing be their first choice—the resounding answer would be “No!” The truth is that the government of this great country has declared that a family of five making less than $50,000 a year is living in poverty. In this community, most of us live on less than $10,000 a year. What do you call that? Ultra-extreme poverty? Yet when there was a push to raise the minimum wage, we all saw the resistance.

Perhaps the greatest mystery to me is the number of whites that are flocking to Africa. The same people don’t even have the decency to own up to their racism here, but are so concerned about dark skin halfway around the world. Do they fear becoming victims of the uncivilized nature of those their very ancestors deliberately stole, destroying all vestiges of cultures and beliefs, forbidding the right to education and even the right to their own offspring? This is not ancient history. This is still going on. It is done now by social-service agencies and the criminal-justice system. It is done by using a different yardstick to mete out punishment and judgment when someone’s skin is dark.

I implore all of you who marched to free Mumia to look right here at home. See that injustice is only a step away—in the Buncombe County Jail.

— Robert K. White
Asheville

Editor’s note: The author of this letter was an originator of the community-gardening project at Pisgah View, covered in “Planting Seeds: Pisgah View Gardening Project Grows More Than Food.” [“In and About the Garden,” July 5]

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2 thoughts on “Take another look at Pisgah View

  1. silverman

    well put, robert.

    maybe mumpower will donate his time to plant some trees? or, perhaps, if he’s too busy, he could just donate some cash to buy some trees?

  2. William Iannarone

    While much of what you say is indeed true and we would agree to the 80% mark, I find several comments to be remarkably skewed towards shifting responsibility for one’s actions and circumstances away from those that have the most control over them.

    Having grown up between two cultures, I live in a heavily minority community, but that’s by choice and probably because we were closer on one family side than the other and because my parents couldn’t afford a more affluent area. In between races however, I saw some amazing disconnects, but they were on both sides. You have exemplified one, but have left the other to stand exclusively on “how we choose to overcome them” and tied bad choices to the community rather than to those that make them.

    Let me be clear about one thing. Regardless of race or economics, we are all equally and personally responsible for our own actions, and this we cannot attach to a vague community, a political process or agency, or any other person on the face of the planet. To say my bad decision has its cause somewhere else is to dehumanize me, take away my ability, right, and responsibility to make better ones next time, and it says that I am inferior because I don’t have control over my own actions. THAT is the message of every racist. Please do not agree with them.

    By saying that I am not completely 100% responsible for my own bad decisions, you also remove the value or credit for me making the right ones. You can’t have it both ways.

    There are many poor black people in this country and the rest of the world that make responsible and moral decisions every day and take the rough road less traveled, while many others do not. Personal integrity and moral choices are not tied to the size of your income or your bank account. Very good people and very evil people, hard working people and lazy people, and people make great choices and stupid choices in every community and at every income level.

    “It costs more to imprison someone than to educate them”, is a great bumper sticker slogan. However, it ignores the reality that African-Americans that drop out of school have chosen to do so, and their parents have supported that decision. Neither you nor I can force anyone to accept what is given to him/her freely. It has GOT to become the focus of the African-American community to make education a priority and develop an expectation that every child gets a quality education.

    Most of all, it has got to become the focus of the African-American community to reject dropping out, to say that having babies to get a government check is stupid and self-destructive, that fathering children that you don’t or cannot support is not acceptable and you will be ostracized, and that you will receive full credit and must take responsibility for both your good and your bad decisions.

    The schools are there, as are the textbooks and the teachers, the bus will pick the kids up and drop them off, and if you are poor, they will also feed them before and while they teach them. It’s a gift-horse in this land of opportunity. If someone walks away from that and chooses crime over education, that’s his fault and nobody else’s… unless you wish to include the parents that said it was okay.

    Lastly, to decry someone’s attempts to remove drug dealers from the community and drugs from the mouths of babies is not right. A drug dealer might desire to be a businessman or a computer engineer. I also wish to play the saxophone and speak 7 languages, but I have not chosen to spend the effort and time to make that happen. It’s foolish to suggest that wishes make that happen or that someone will come along and bestow that on him. It has to be earned and that takes work, and that takes resolve, and that takes spirit and character. Nobody but you can give you or take away your character and spirit.

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