Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wake Up America, the Baltimores need somebody to lean on.

(Image courtesy CNN)

I was in Baltimore a few years ago, right after I moved to the US. As I gushed over the awesome waterfront, the diverse city life, and said I would like to live here, my husband and his friend looked at each other and decided to drive through the "ghettos" on the way back home. What I saw was my first "ghetto" ever. Conditions and environments that would put some parts of Palestine to shame (and yes, that's a valid comparison). Areas of Baltimore which exist just across the street from Johns Hopkins look like veritable refugee camps. I had never seen that much barbed wire outside of Palestine before. 

And, I left Baltimore with the same exact feeling as I did when I left Palestine - it's just a matter of time before the oppressed rise up and fight against the systemic oppression, inequality, and injustice. It's just a matter of time when the have nots will fight back to gain what is rightfully theirs. 

I'm not American, and I have no desire to be. But as I sat at home and watched the people of Baltimore sing "lean on me" on the street while they defied the curfew order brought tears to my eyes. How can any chest thumping American feel any less? 

Yet, we still hear about trickle down economics and tax breaks. We still drag our feet on smart evidence based reforms in education and health. My biggest frustration with American policy making as a student of public policy is exactly this - America spends the most money on research. The smartest, most brilliant minds almost all exist here. And yet, policy making in the US is possibly the most inefficient and intellectually bankrupt in the developed world. What will it take to switch to evidence based policy making? 

There is little evidence that "broken windows" or "zero tolerance" policing works. And yet city after city in the US, today, are still instituting such broken policing policies which don't work. They cost more money, incarcerate more people, and are highly inefficient. Report after report commissioned by the federal govt goes into detail about Community Policing and the benefits of it. Successful police departments all across North America exist that show the efficiency and positive outcomes of community policing where the police exist to actually "Serve and Protect". How many more studies will it take? How many more reports, statistics will we need? How many more people need to die? How many more black bodies will bear the burden of inefficient policy making?

It's time to stop with the feet dragging and studying and it's time to do. It's time to use the ballot box, and your political agency to instill change. It's time to demand better for your fellow Americans and it's time to be that somebody to lean on. 

America Wake Up. 

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