Several years ago Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price mounted a virtual one-man campaign in his South Dallas district against liquor billboards that pushed alcohol in the neighborhoods he represented.
I recall that the white folks in my north Dallas County, suburban church didn't get his point, nor did they appreciate his actions, even though few, if any, of them drank themselves.
Mr. Price "assaulted" the billboards with whitewash. That's right. He literally painted over the ads in protest.
Now, you must understand. Mr. Price is not anti-first amendment. He believes in our free market capitalism. He is not against advertisers, as far as I can ascertain.
His problem was proportion, density and placement.
He correctly noted that a disproportionate number of the liquor ads were placed in his part of the community. What would never have been allowed in such density in North Dallas seemed to be running unchecked among the people who elected him. Having exhausted all other channels of honest, reasonable dialogue, he took matters into his own hands. As I recall, he suffered the legal consequences gladly.
While you may not agree with his tactics (I actually saw him as a brave and savvy leader at the time), you must admire what he understood.
A recent study of 82 neighborhoods in four northern/central California cities revealed that the most economically deprived communities contained more places that sold alcohol than the least deprived, even though the more affluent areas housed more heavy drinkers (Marilyn Winkleby, Stanford Prevention Research Center).
This disproportionate clustering of such negative forces affects quality of life and health outcomes. The practice is also patently racist.
Mr. Price was right.
My white, tee-totaling friends who wrote him off as some sort of a lunatic just didn't get it.
Weak, unorganized communities routinely fall prey to mounting negative influences and powers that destine them to remain weak, ill and unhealthy.
Somehow communities need to come together across all the lines that divide us to insure that such marketing pathology is ended for the good of us all.
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