Posted by: joshjasper | June 2, 2016

Black Power…or the lack thereof.

I had one meeting yesterday and way too much time alone with my thoughts.  I have to be careful with days like that.  Too often that is a recipe for feelings of self-doubt to bubble up and a questioning of any and all of my work.  I begin to feel like an impostor; a fake.
Everything becomes inadequate.
We’re planning a forum later in June in which stakeholders will discuss the violence perpetrated in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and Waterloo.  More specifically though, we’re going to talk around the issue of the increase of gun violence within various black communities throughout the tri-state area.  That’s what we are really concerned about, but I’m not sure if that will actually even be named.
More policing.  More cameras.  More lighting.  More meetings.
My head was starting to pound and I was getting increasingly agitated when sending the emails out yesterday to invite people to the discussion.  I don’t know if I can be in another meeting in which we talk about trying to understand why people are walking the streets with guns and sometimes shooting one another.  We know why.  Of course we do.
Solutions will be offered that will not matter; they will not work without going deeper.  I know it.  I know this will all of my heart.  And I think you do as well.  Some of the suggested solutions will actually make things worse. We must have honest conversations that lead to meaningful work.  We absolutely must.  If we don’t, the violence will persist.  It will worsen.  That much I know.
I had to get out of the office.  Right now.  No more emails.  No more pretending to not know the solution to a problem that is age-old.  I got in my car and drove and ended up at Comiskey Park.
I watched the black men play basketball, wondering what it must be like to live in their world for even a day when I quickly realized that I wasn’t the only one watching.  A police officer was parked next to me doing the same thing.  So were the cameras that were mounted on the electrical pole facing the playground.
I get it.  It makes sense that those things are there.  But what about the unintended consequences for having all of that present?  How would I feel if I was always being watched, knowing that I am seen as a threat by so many?  That makes me anxious even thinking about that reality and it most definitely would shape my attitudes and behaviors toward others.
Young black men are carrying guns and shooting people because they have nothing else.  They are in a state of despair and lack the hope of ever realizing success.  They are forced to gain power and status in ways we may never understand.  Their reality is so far from the norm, but it is the norm for them.  Every single day.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not excusing violent behavior.  But IF we ever want to realize prevention, we MUST understand why the violence exists in the first place…even if the truth is really hard to accept.  And the truth simply is this:  There are a lot of people in our community, and in every other community throughout our great country, that flat out hate black people and will go to extreme measures to ensure that they never realize success.
From the comments that litter Facebook posts, online forums and news articles,  to the tired narrative that is told in every form of media, to the crosses that continue to burn, to the jobs that don’t exist, to the education that is lacking and to the efforts to keep people of color at an arm’s distance from all other opportunities to connect with others and our community.  It’s everywhere.  It’s not hard to see.  It’s just really hard to accept.
Black men are reminded every day by you and me of the role we want them to play.  They are the thug, the nig$#@, the reason why our community is no longer safe.  “They” are the problem.  We have people that genuinely believe that we would return to our state of utopia if we simply exported all black people from our community and built a wall on the bridge of the Mississippi River that would prevent them from ever coming back.  If we would just stop the marketing campaign that is believed to exist in Chicago that focuses on attracting black people to the Dubuque promise land of free housing and jobs, we would be in a better place.
Yeah, I wonder what it’s like to live in a community like that.  And I just wonder how I would cope.


  1. Thanks Josh for sharing your thoughts on this complex and compelling issue. All of us are complicit by allowing white privilege and indirect discrimination become the norm in our lives. While there is no simple solution, I recommend that people interested in positive change read Jim Wallis’ latest book, America’s Original Sin – Racism and White Privilege. I look forward to a forum on this issue with thought leaders and change leaders such as you.

  2. Josh,

    Thanks for this thought provoking blog. I left a comment.

    Also, I had a quick discussion with Michael Fleming (from UNI) at the Riverview annual fund-raiser last night. He told me about a meeting to plan this forum but didn’t have his phone so he couldn’t give me the date and time of the planning meeting in Dubuque. As the chair of the Dbq Coalition for Nonviolence can I participate in this planning session ?

    All the best !

    Tim Moothart 563-581-7690

    Tim Moothart 563-581-7690

    On Thu, Jun 2, 2016 at 2:50 PM, Josh Jaspers Blog wrote:

    > joshjasper posted: “I had one meeting yesterday and way too much time > alone with my thoughts. I have to be careful with days like that. Too > often that is a recipe for feelings of self-doubt to bubble up and a > questioning of any and all of my work. I begin to feel like an ” >

  3. Great Blog Josh. I can definitely relate to your thoughts. Being a single mom in Dubuque county raising a black child had some eye opening moments. Simple things like taking your child to a Dr appt. The staff automatically assumed that you were on government assistant. On several occasions I would have to remind them that I had insurance. I was even handed vouchers on a couple occasions to help pay for prescriptions. On another occasion when my son was around 16, he and a buddy decided to take a walk on the tracks, not an uncommon thing to do when you live in the country. They were looking for rabbits, they thought maybe they could hunt some. A local business man spotted them, and called the Sherriff for fear that there was a black man walking around and he was afraid that he was going to steal something or up to no good. This person also thought it was a good idea to chase him with his car. When it was all investigated and this person realized who the black man was, and that he personally knew my son as we have lived in this town for years and our kids all went to school together then it was a different story. But initially his thoughts were, there is a black person,he must be up to no good. He has also had a couple occasions while job searching, that he was treated poorly. One job he had the “hiring” ad in hand and walked in to fill out an application and was told we are not hiring, showed the desk person the ad from the current paper and still stated we are not hiring. When I asked a family member of the business if they were hiring, his response was, yes, we have several openings. When people deny that these things happen, they need to open their eyes. My son was fortunate as to have some great friends and people in his life growing up. The few things that he was exposed to are trivial compared to what the black youth in Dubuque are experiencing today I cannot imagine the struggles they have. Who has their back, who is going to make them feel safe? The solution starts with them. The community needs to make them feel safe, and show them that they can be successful. The community needs to be proactive instead of reactive. Keep up all of your good work! You are making a difference!

  4. Thanks for the comments, Tim and your suggestion for a book. And yes, please plan on attending the forum. I will send you information about the meeting. It may make sense for Nate from Riverview to attend as well.

    Talk soon.

  5. Thank you for sharing, Chris. I am sorry to hear about the experiences of your son and am very appreciative of you sharing. Stories like that need to be heard and really felt by others. I believe those examples can really begin to build the empathy needed to create change.

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