Social Tinkering | Letters | Chicago Reader

Social Tinkering 

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To the editors:

May 7 article "Apartheid American-Style" reminded me of the story about four men: an engineer, an economist, a lawyer, and a scientist stranded on an island and faced with the task of opening a can of beans--each proposed an unpractical method based on his area of expertise.

Mr. Henderson is caught up in a situation similar to that of the four men. Surely a person as informed as he does not believe that more black people living in more white people's neighborhoods will reduce racial oppression or enable black people to become more self-sufficient, as a group, if the complex social, cultural, political, and economic variables that promote racial oppression and discrimination within our society continue to exist in their present format.

It is just as easy to oppress a select group of people that live in the same neighborhood as it is to oppress those that live on the other side of the railroad tracks. In fact it doesn't matter if the oppressed ones live behind, within, or under the oppressor's house, if a system of oppression is in place oppression will occur. Neighborhood proximity of black people and white people is not the key variable when attempting to find solutions that will reduce racial oppression or trying to figure how to better the lives of black people as a group.

The conclusions that Mr. Henderson generated from his analysis of sociological data and his unfortunate literary selection does not open the can of beans either. Such information has only served to assist him in justifying his misguided viewpoint and has allowed him to come to illogical conclusions: segregation = racial oppression = poverty; integration = reduction of racial oppression = happy black people. If segregation = poverty for blacks it would = poverty for whites. The truth of the matter is that for the blacks, segregation + something else = poverty. Mr. Henderson's conclusions are in the same category of those of the researcher that concluded that fleas don't hear very well once their wings and legs are plucked off.

Social researchers such as Mr. Henderson do black as well as white people a disservice. His proposal of a trickle-down neighborhood theory behind the tail wind of another, now infamous, trickle-down theory speaks for itself. Mr. Henderson has concluded that proximity to the manifestations of the disease is the cause of the disease. Thus he has concluded that white = good, that black = not as good, that segregation = bad; thus white + black = something better. "It ain't necessarily so."

Mr. Henderson has failed to identify condition, cause, and effect and their relationship to each other. I suspect that he is aware of this but finds it difficult to "grab the bull by his horns," or perhaps it is impossible for him to grab that which in fact may be an illusion. At any rate his inability to do so reduced him to indulging in armchair social tinkering.

More black people need to look inward for solutions that will improve their condition in relationship to white people's problems and not rely on social tinkers such as Mr. Henderson to solve their perceptions of what it is that they as a collective group perceive as problems. They must evolve to the point that they are capable of putting into place the context, features, and controls that will enable them to regulate their group concerns in relationship to white people's group concerns. Such in itself would not necessarily preclude the equal participation of whites and blacks, but may tend to eliminate social tinkers such as Mr. Henderson. Likewise white people need to figure out how to evolve to a higher level of consciousness.

Based on my awareness of the past, I am confident that in time that both blacks and whites will figure out how to open the can of beans without spilling the beans on the ground.

Gus Jones Jr.

Architect/Planner/Artist

Chicago

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