Be Safe In This Time of Division

On November 15, 1996 activist and founder of the Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, buddy gray, was killed by a guy that buddy had helped get into housing.  buddy had opened the drop inn center shelter by taking over a public building and worked as its executive director.  He started a development corporation to try to get homeless and low income people into any redevelopment strategy.  This is the post card that Bonnie sent out to mark the death of her partner, buddy. 

A mentally ill man entered the shelter and shot gray six times then sat and waited for the police to show up.  Most felt that buddy had become the focal point of anger and resentment in the community.  He had pushed the community to open the shelter after a friend had frozen to death on the streets of Cincinnati.  He was pushing against the millions of dollars pouring into Over the Rhine to redevelop the neighborhood as an artist and education center.  This made him a target because he was perceived as holding back neighborhood progress. Many in the community felt that a mentally ill man who was helped into his apartment by staff at the Drop Inn Center focused all his demons on this one person that the community was blaming for the poverty in the neighborhood.  Developers wanted to move the Drop Inn shelter and the other social services in order to build a school of the arts in the neighborhood.  Many were blaming buddy for their misery just as today there is a misplaced blaming of immigrants. 

We live in a similarly divisive time in America.  We are seeing a rash of hate crimes on mosques, women in hajabs, and barristas at Starbucks.  There is a great deal of anger in a deeply divided country.  The Election of 2016 was full of hate like we have never seen before. It exposed a lot of resentment and anxiety that exists in the United States.  There is a search for an enemy for why wages have stagnated, no safety net, the middle class is shrinking, and a generation that is not going to be better than their parents.  We have selected immigrants, Muslims, trade deals and elites as the reason for all the nation's problems.  But it is not a stretch to see that homeless people could be a target in this divided country.  There are so many who do not understand homeless people and are afraid that they could become a homeless person, they may strike out at this fragile group who are exposed outside everyday.    There are going to be many social justice individuals who will be viewed as the enemy for protecting individual rights or protecting these "targets" for hate.

We have to learn from the death of buddy gray.  Hate can kill people.  If we are shielding immigrants from government intrusion into the privacy rights of its citizens, we need to be careful.  If we are protecting fragile populations from bullies, there is always a backlash.  There are a lot of untreated mentally ill people out there who feed off anger and hate in our country.  We have to all be aware of who is around and we have to pay attention to the signs.  We cannot be as confrontational and cannot become a target in our community.  If people start personalizing the argument, it may be necessary to step back for our own safety and the safety of our families.  Social Justice types are not going to be that popular in the middle of America where we are most divided.  We need to be careful in the next few years. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

PS: buddy gray never used capital letters when signing or printing his name, so we are respecting that here.