GENE ROBERTSON: Lack of involvement might be our undoing

Monday, July 14, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 3:54 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2014

Recently Bob Costas, the noted sports journalist, chastised MSNBC for playing the race card too often when issues might reflect causation by the suggested victims themselves. There were few demands by his interviewer or any others for Mr. Costas to explain his statement.

His remarks could be extended to society at large. Too few of us are actively participating in the decisions that affect our lives until we are critically and directly affected by an issue.

Most of us exist in a state of denial as long as we possess adequate comforts. Mr. Costas might have been alluding to the passivity and lethargy that I see expressed in the African-American community.

Too many of us African Americans refuse to extend help to people who are feeling the pain and brunt of inequalities in all aspects of their lives. Many African-American professionals are a part of the perpetration of injustices against low-income disenfranchised members of their own culture.

Rarely are the well-fed and well-employed giving back to their community as educators, spokespersons, strategists or supporters of endeavors to remove inequities.

Consequently these tasks are ill-performed by too many ill-prepared opportunists seeking celebrity rather than solutions. These people and organizations might or might not represent the views of the majority, but they are the majority of the views being expressed.

African-American churches are no longer a place to address any kind of equity on earth for everyone — with rare exceptions. Many congregations don’t want their churches involved in contemporary issues, except for token direct-service projects such as a food bank.

They resist efforts to address equity conditions on earth, here and now. They use the diversity in our community to minimize our relationships and to rationalize inexcusable failures to support each other.

They limit contact between those who feel the pain and those who have the resources to address the issues affecting African Americans. The Obama presidential campaigns offer an example of the African-American potential in sync. Those who seek to block fair voting are well aware of this potential. That is why so much effort and resources are dedicated to resisting voters' rights.

While the aforementioned example might have been what Mr. Costas was referring to, few citizens of any group are as active as they should be.

Wikipedia defines active citizenship as a philosophy espoused by organizations where members or nation states have certain roles and responsibilities to society, although they might not have a direct governing role.

This can be seen in the roles and responsibilities held and executed by its members at every governmental level. These roles might not be written but are nevertheless available to all citizens who might want to exercise them in a democracy.

The problem now is not a question of overuse of these rights and responsibilities, but rather a failure of citizens to fully exercise their responsibilities as citizens.

We need to do more than texting our opinions, satisfactions or dissatisfactions. We must limit the possibility of leaders serving only their own interests instead of their constituents'.

If those who claim to be leaders can't get our issues satisfactorily addressed, then it is our job as active citizens to continue working on them until we are satisfied.

Too many of us refuse to educate ourselves and acknowledge our plight relative to social, health, economic, judicial, ecological, political, economic and safety issues.

As a result, we leave research, analysis, organization, proposals and policies to elected, appointed or hired leaders to act in our behalf without our involvement.

We accept a lack of transparency and accountability regarding issues that might affect us indirectly or even directly. We ignore, separate ourselves and fail to adequately communicate with others at our own peril.

The abdication of our own participation might be our undoing. We must all become comfortable with expressing our will through organized action with as many citizens as possible.

William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU. He writes occasional columns for the Missourian.

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Skip Yates July 14, 2014 | 5:09 p.m.

Good God, anything this "professor emeritus" has to write about, you have to read a couple of times to get the an idea of what he is talking about. One almost needs a thearus to decipher his meanings/interpretatiion of words..of which nothing he writes is plain and in direct conversational English. His mind appears to miander as much as his thought and ability in transcription. Equally is his confusing "standing up" for that kid, high on drugs, that got shot by a son when the perp stuck a gun on his father's neck. Missourian commentators should be a bit more .....well, intelligent.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 15, 2014 | 6:40 a.m.

Hey, Skip (Yates)!

Without further comment about this particular emeritus professor, have you been exposed to the writing of John Dewey (1859-1952)? Dewey is considered one of the most influential educators of the 20th century.

I'd offer some of Dewey's writing as the absolute cure for insomnia - you don't need to spend your hard-earned money on prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids!

While Dewey gets a lot of praise, his writing style has actually been used in some English composition and journalism classes as an example of poor expositional writing: if you can get past THAT, what he actually has to say often makes sense.

What has always truly scared me about Dewey is that he seems to have had such a major influence on "modern" educational philosophy - when you consider his ponderous and difficult writing style. :)

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates July 16, 2014 | 5:37 a.m.

@Ellis: This might interest you. Gave a little of John Dewey a're right!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 16, 2014 | 7:59 a.m.

@ Skip:

1-Thanks for the information.

2-Several people who are supposed to understand these things have said a person's writing style reflects their thinking processes. Maybe John Dewey is an exception to that rule.

I recently gave up on reading a book ("My Pilgrim's Progress") written by a guy who was a founding editor of National Lampoon and has been a writer for New Yorker magazine. I've seldom read a more confusing and disjointed book. According to the bio, the author "attended" Exeter and Harvard. It doesn't say that he graduated. :) I seriously doubt that's how they teach English composition at either Exeter or Harvard. Hell, they do a better job of teaching students than is exhibited in that book at Des Moines Technical High School or Missouri University of Science and Technology, neither of which is huge in the Liberal Arts.

(Report Comment)

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