Paul Jargowsky, professor at the University of Texas at Dallas and author of the immensely important book, Poverty and Place: Ghettos, Barrios, and the American City, made this statement at our last Urban Engagement Book Club:
"Poverty in Dallas is like a slow motion Katrina."
He is so right.
Why is it that we find it so easy to respond to the dramatic, the spectacular, the disastrous, the obvious, but can't see what occurs on an everyday basis in our own backyards?
Not long after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and blew away the Lower Ninth Ward, the Dallas-based Foundation for Community Empowerment and the J. McDonald Williams Institute produced a research report that compared that New Orleans community with our own Frazier Neighborhood here in South Dallas. By every single measure the Dallas community was worse off than its counter part in New Orleans prior to the storm.
I suppose it takes a disaster to get us concerned. Of course, in the case of New Orleans we have been far from concerned enough, but that is another matter for another time.
Week before last an immigrant from East Africa was killed while trying to cross one of our freeways here in Dallas. Tragic story and loss. Front page story in our local newspaper.
I've received a number of calls about this man's family from people wanting to help. Great of them to call and to help.
But in the ghetto neighborhoods of Dallas slow motion car wrecks claim innocent lives, one bit at a time, every single day. Some how, we act as if we don't believe the reality is anywhere near us. Like unless we come and see it every day or read some shocking report about human pain, we feel as if it is not there, as if it is not going on at all.
Dr. Jargowsky is right. A "slow motion Katrina" at work in a neighborhood very near you, much closer than you think.
What will you do about it?