Monday, March 30, 2009

Dealing With The Pain When Our Efforts Don't Work

Saturday at Armstrong Park here in New Orleans was the Yes We Care march and rally where hundred of black New Orleans residents came out to make a commitment against violence. I have been going back and forth for awhile about this issue. If people are going to put extra energy into solving this problem then count me in. However, before we run down to the streets and take on the challenge of changing lives we need to admit that this is not a Tyler Perry movie and that real life people don’t fall in line with change that easily.

I have been thinking about the things that led to this point and how the community’s attitude became so passive when I know deep down they care. In my opinion that attitude comes from all the times we have watched, friends, family, and people around us get caught up in bad things despite our efforts to stop them. I think it’s not true to say the community hasn’t done anything or at least tried to. There’s just been so much heartbreak and disappointment on a personal level that you have to detach a little just to soften the blow for the inevitable tragic news. Nothing enhances the pain of watching your people fall than the feeling of failure that you couldn’t stop them. I am not ignoring the circumstances that lead to the mind state that leads to some people not knowing enough to always accept the support you are trying to give but the hurt is still the same.

There are many success stories of people who turned things around and got things together. No one is a hopeless cause. There are many bad stories too and those seem to stick with us. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that I am sure many people in the community know a mom who they tried to help get out of a rough environment for the benefit of her and the kids but she didn’t want to and one of or all of her children ended up in a bad situation. There are probably many of us that have called in favors and gotten jobs or other opportunities for someone we know and they didn’t show up or did show up and acted so crazy that they burned that bridge forever. There are many friends that are no longer friends today because one of them chose to roll with a different crowd that ended up taking them down to drugs or violence even after the other friend tried to tell them what was going to happen. These situations and others like it have happened over and over in our community and I think it’s one of the main reasons more people tune the problem out than the number that gets involved. The only way to get over this is to admit openly and talk about it.

This was not intended to make the case for people not to care or to turn a blind eye to the problem. I just think that if we need to be realistic and prepared for what may happen if people take on the task. In order for this change to take place we are going to have to learn to deal with rejection and keep coming back for more until the light finally goes off in the heads of some of our folks. It means we might have to lose a few more because some people are too deep into it. If you are not ready to deal with this reality and accept resistance to change then maybe you don’t need to be directly involved in this fight. Honestly, I am not sure if I am ready myself. The babies and kids are something I can handle. It takes a different level of emotional commitment to deal with those teens and adults. It’s going to be a long and hard struggle.


Anita said...

Thought provoking post, Cliff. Commendable. I know you will find what it is you can do best and you'll do it.

For some reason, I keep remembering that list of good men you wrote about some time ago. This generation of babies and children you are talking about need a network of men like that, spread out around them everywhere they go, like a safety net. Once upon a time our communities were like that.

Clifton said...

Hi Anita,
We need a safety net. I think the challenge now is getting the people who need the net more than anyone to accept it.

Anita said...

A brief wise word from Michelle Obama in London: