In spite of what I may say in this column, I do truly believe that most people are good at heart, perhaps a little too wrapped up in their own world, but still good at heart. Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Years ago, when I was a part-time employee at Juvenile Court, I would almost nightly make it a ritual to spend time sitting on a bed in lockup with some troubled juvenile. Those young men always appreciated any time you could spend with them, never noticing whether the young man was black, white or Hispanic. Today, it is not at all unusual to have an adult approach and offer a thank you for those sit-downs asking, do you remember me? Most times I do not because they have gone from boyhood to manhood and look extremely different than when I knew them.
Just slightly before retirement from the court, I worked part time for Lima City Schools as a lunchroom supervisor — a job that was mentioned to me by retired LPD officer Tom Moss, who previously held that position. I was known to the kids as Mr. Charlie. During the time I was employed with the Lima City Schools, I was acutely aware of circumstances that made schools, nationwide, easy targets for ill-minded people. I took the responsibility for the safety of those kids seriously and practiced, in my head, many times over the best way to get all the kids to a place of safety should a circumstance like that arise. For those two hours each day, they were my kids, the black ones, the white ones, and the brown ones and had there ever been an ill-minded intruder, I would have stayed until all those young people were relocated to that place of safety.
I give monthly to St. Jude and in doing so, I never specify that my donations only goes to serve one ethnic group over another. It is there to help heal everyone which leads me to what this column is all about — healing.
It is clear, after reading parts of this newspaper the last few days, Lima needs some healing. All the above was simply stated as a prerequisite to what I am going to say now because there are those in this community that have chosen to label me as an anti-white racist. Most people that know me would refer that statement to comedy central.
A former area resident now living in North Carolina recently wrote a letter, “Hate brings Lima into the gutter.” He went on to say how often he reads the online comments filled with ignorance and hate and how not much has changed since he left this area. The same day, in The Lima News, a story about police abuse appeared alleged by the local chapter of the NAACP. Only if you choose to bury your head in the sand , could you not see that there is a racial disconnect taking place in and around the city of Lima. As painful as it may be, Wall Street 24/7 found enough circumstance that it placed this city on the list of being one of the worst places in America for African-Americans. Internal deniability won’t change that and sometimes the most simple form of indignation can go unrecognized so let me try.
Many times I have written about the way local radio media has turned it’s back on the African-American community here offering only a couple of hours, at both Childers Media and I Heart media, of targeted African-American programming. Each organizations offers over 800 programmatic hours each week with only two hours of programming specifically geared toward African-Americans. As they say on Sportscenter, “Come on man.”
Let me state clearly, this is not about me as I was offered to return to the airways as the voice of the “Raven” and rejected that offer by both media outlets. This is about what is fair and just and ask each Caucasian person reading this to stop and vision a world in which you were the minority and everything on local radio was geared toward black entertainment. I ask you, how would that make you feel? You pay your taxes, you spend your dollars locally, you have served in the military, and work your job daily and you are still ignored.
Those that choose to label me as a anti-white racist need to understand that if that situation were reversed in which whites were the minority treated in a like manner, I would be the absolute first to tell black people that what you are doing is wrong. The many times that I have written about this have not witnessed any change, so it is left to businesses to speak up and say we want something for everyone and that a community that reaches out to everyone is the kind of community we want.
With the current shortage of minority applicants in law enforcement, it will always be hard for the Lima Police Department to recruit minority interest until minorities feel a part of whatever it is they are protecting and serving. Love truth but pardon error and hopefully this error will be recognized. The Dalai Lama once stated, no matter what part of the world we come from, we are all basically the same human beings. We are all just seeking a little bit of happiness in our lives because love is the pursuit of the whole and if we truly have love for the whole we will see that provisions are made for the whole as well. Obviously this will not resolve all the issues of disconnect but it is a good starting point, it’s a good way of saying, “I see you and because you are a part of this thing we call humanity, you do matter.”
Charles Thomas is a former Allen County juvenile probation officer and a lifelong resident of Lima. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org