The following letter was written by SARN Board President Theresa El-Amin and published in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer on September 4, 2014. The letter was written in response to a piece written by senior reporter Chuck Williams (included at the end of this post).
That “peace of mind” is elusive
“Someone is stealing our peace of mind,” says Chuck Williams, senior editor at the Ledger-Enquirer. Chuck’s piece published on September 2 was more like a rallying cry that tells the tale of two cities.
I haven’t had “peace of mind” since I first saw young prisoners doing work that is done by public employees in all the other cities I’ve called home. I haven’t had peace of mind since I heard leaders in Columbus Consolidated Government describe the “tale of two cities” over and over again without a vision to address economic inequality.
Where there are thousands of poor children not succeeding in school, you will have criminal activity that doesn’t go away as long as you have thousands of poor children not succeeding in school. This is where friends in one of my circles would say, “Everybody knows that.”
I’ve moved around a few circles in Columbus enough to know that not everybody knows that children failing in school, a high poverty rate and criminal activity are connected.
Perhaps people really do know, and have decided “it’s somebody else’s problem.”
History has shown us that social problems are addressed by social movements that lead to changes in public policies. Otherwise, we live in fear. We fear people who don’t look like us, talk like us or live where we live.
Fear breeds oppression, repression and suppression. The outcome is a community culture of “them and us.”
Columbus needs a “collective piece of our minds.” That “Great Conversation” can’t start soon enough.
Chuck Williams: Someone is stealing our peace of mind
by Chuck Williams
We have a crime problem in Columbus, people.
That’s a fact that cannot be denied. Now, if only the solution was as easy to state as the obvious.
Ask your family, friends and neighbors if they have had an encounter with the criminal element of this community? You will be surprised by the answer.
In the last month I know four people who have been impacted.
• A good friend ran a Saturday afternoon errand, came back to her home in the Historic District and found it had been broken into and some items she deeply cherished were stolen. I was going to say taken, but they were stolen, just like her peace of mind.
• Another friend ran into his downtown business for a couple of minutes, forgot to lock his vehicle, and a thief reached into it and stole his bookbag. I was going to say took it, but it was stolen, just like his peace of mind.
• Friends of mine in Midtown left their home on a Tuesday morning, one of them circled back less than 30 minutes later to check on something. Their front door had been kicked in, and their TV and other electronic items were stolen. The back door of their neighbor’s home had been kicked in, as well. More stuff was stolen. I was going to say taken, but it was stolen, just like their peace of mind.
• Neighbors in Historic District were recently robbed at gunpoint of their jewelry as they stood in their front yard one night. Again, their peace of mind was stolen — and the damn fool did it by putting a gun in their face.
Four instances that I know about because they happened to people in my circle. That is a pretty rough August, isn’t it?
But here is the kicker, those thieves didn’t just steal from my friends and neighbors, they stole from me and you. They stole — and continue to steal — from our community. They stole our collective peace of mind. The guy who robbed my neighbors at gunpoint, just as well put the gun in my face. And I am not alone. I have seen the Facebook reaction to this incident. I have talked to my neighbors and friends.
The law abiding folks among us are angry and want to find a way to curb this, bring those who terrorize us — and this is a form of domestic terror — to swift justice.
The only good thing I see coming out of this is people coming together to combat it. They are using social media as a tool to communicate and inform. And there are neighborhoods and communities all over this town doing that.
But here is what this issue has also done — it has made me look at people and things differently. And that is unfortunate.
Sunday night I was walking the dogs and saw a man hanging out. He didn’t respond to me when I asked him a question. He didn’t even look at me. He was in an area that has seen a spike in crime. I called 911. My thought was simple, “Let the police sort it out.”
Three weeks ago, I would have never called 911 on that man. Never.
But that was before someone stole my peace of mind.
Chuck Williams, senior reporter, firstname.lastname@example.org.