By Aminisha Black
Choosing Problem or Solution
Remember the saying, “You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution”? I don’t hear that much anymore. Instead, it seems like we’re satisfied complaining, protesting and defending positions. Seems like we’ve become resigned to living with the problems and surrounding ourselves with folk who agree with us. Maybe, being comfortable with the familiar, we don’t want to solve the old problems because we don’t want to go through the hassle of finding new positions and new arguments. What if, in disputes, we actually committed to finding a solution where all parties would win?
Of course, that goes against the dominant culture’s orientation. After all, we are force-fed “either/or” along with “them/us” reasoning from birth to death, unless we’re fortunate enough to have families that remember another way of being, where the interrelationships between humans was the highest-held value, where the “we” was sacred and there was no “them or us”. Growing up in a home like this is what’s needed to heal the open sores produced by surviving in a culture that places its highest value on the dollar. And don’t forget that unresolved problems create businesses. One example: the unresolved problem of youth dropping out of school and into the criminal justice system bolsters the economy of entire towns where prisons are located.
Speaking of schools, teachers are back, earning 15% less than their suburban counterparts without a raise in three years or a contract for the past two and one-half years. Because of our fragmentation, we listen to a mayor boast of record improvements in academic performance (an appeal to voters) without supporting the people doing the work. This would only be tolerated in the field of human services. Remember – Humans are dispensable in America and New York City (i.e., Iraq, New Orleans). Now readers please, I know there are serious problems in the schools. No, I haven’t forgotten the UFT’s strikes during Ocean-hill-Brownsville. But I respect the individuals who chose a career of teaching our children and understand that as in all areas of life, I’m responsible and must form partnerships if I’m to be a part of the solution.
The major challenges in problem- solving are seeing another’s point of view and the need to be right, closely connected to the need to look good. And because all parties concerned are afflicted with the same disease, the stalemate sets in and continues forever. Notice the issue of the teachers contract has taken on a life of its own – off into the world of unions, politics and business – removed from the needs of our children. This is an opportunity to bring it back. Tell the mayor that it’s important that the individuals who are involved in our children’s development deserve a contract. Call 311, Fax 212-788-2460, e-mail -www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html or write: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, City Hall, New York, NY 10007.
It’ll be easy for some folk to contact the mayor, and there’ll be others who hate unions, especially the UFT, have some serious gripes with administrators and/or teachers and don’t care if they ever get a contract or a raise. I’d like to appeal to the latter group. You obviously have experienced a problem that didn’t get resolved. If you can single one teacher out to empathize with, make the call for that teacher. Once you make that move, you will have stepped into the solution circle, creating a space to tackle those unresolved problems but from the position of ally rather than opponent. The next communication is with the school, defining the problem, brainstorming causes and creating action steps.
We play out the either them or us programming daily on our jobs, in our churches, in our schools, on our blocks and in our homes. We are comfortable in our “us” group with its own hierarchy and we keep busy denouncing them. Until we change the way we are, we will continue to leave our children a legacy of unfulfilled purpose, anger, powerlessness, impoverishment and hopelessness. And worst of all, we continue to aid in maintaining a system that has and continues to dominant, violate and control humans for dollars. Our children deserve better.
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By Aminisha Black