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Columbia Missourian

GENE ROBERTSON: Gap between franchised and disenfranchised remains wide

By Gene Robertson
July 11, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

The quote, “What you do to the least of your brethren, you do unto me,” is still applicable when one measures how much progress has been made between the so-called franchised and the disenfranchised.

Local police management of two black men’s shootings — one in Sanford, Fla., and one in Columbia — are symptoms of the amount of progress made.

The unwillingness of the so-called African-American intelligentsia to speak up and speak out is another indicator that change has not occurred. Until the interest of the less privileged is seen as the interest of the privileged, we are all still sharecropping or living on a plantation, no matter what our color or temporary status.

Change is just a cosmetic paint job if the condition of the least of is not better.

Many of us are quick to say things have changed. Some say life will be better for me if I don’t rock the boat. That’s not citizenship. That’s pseudo-slavery.

Citizens have a right to address their condition, their government and their environment.

Prejudice and discrimination profiteering is still occurring on the backs of the poor and other disenfranchised groups. This includes the working poor, small business owners and small farmers.

Many of these groups are quick to blame each other instead of the actual political and economic exploiters. Actions against the victims are often thrown into a gumbo of destructive policies, restrictions and behaviors including arrest, incarceration, mortgage defaults, repossessions and the lack of needed services

The frightening part of these actions is that the disenfranchised are often lured into participating in their own ruin.

The victims are often first to say the old behaviors don’t exist anymore, until the ax falls on them, their relatives or friends.

A big danger to the disenfranchised is the loss of elders without the development of their replacements, the old warhorses that could spot a con job for what it was.

These former leaders are dying, being ostracized as out of date or they have sold out to the exploiters.

These phenomena exist worldwide. In South Africa, the once-militant members of the African National Congress are now a part of the power structure.

Millions of disenfranchised are still disenfranchised. Exploiters have no allegiance to color. They all are capable of using it or any other difference to exploit. Egypt is struggling to find an appropriate political leader now.

The big question is, who will replace the lost warriors? Where is the next Martin Luther King? Where is the next Noam Chomsky, A. Phillip Randolph, Nelson Mandela or Gandhi going to come from?

There is too little fervor from the universities, churches and other former sources of leadership development. This is especially true of professionals of color.

The disenfranchised must learn to organize them and take the actions needed to address their condition. Too many of us believe nothing will happen to us because we don’t fit the description the media has painted of the unworthy disenfranchised.

News flash! We are all the disenfranchised. All it takes is one accident, arrest, health problem, loss of a job, mortgage default or other catastrophe, and the process starts for any of us.

Whom can we turn to for help? Who won’t say it’s not that bad? Will we hear these words? Things have changed. Relax. It can’t happen to you. Calm down. Be reasonable.

Who can you go to who will listen, understand, see if others are experiencing the same issue?

Who will research and assist you to organize with others to take some appropriate action?

There is too little awareness of our real plight. There are too few people and organizations to address our problems.

There are too few who will consider the process described as a legitimate one. After all, things have changed.

William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU.