published Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Let the healing begin: Be part of the solution at tonight's forum

Tonight can be a first step for Chattanooga to begin healing wounds and bridging a poverty gap.

Tonight at Bethlehem Center, the newspaper is sponsoring a forum on the heels of our Chattanooga Times Free Press special section last Sunday titled "Speak No Evil."

The forum is intended to be a discussion on race, reconciliation and rebuilding trust in a Chattanooga that really is two cities -- the one we aspire to be, and the one so divided by race and poverty that some streets and blocks are more like war zones.

The growing divide has been illuminated in the past year by a brutal police beating of a black halfway house prisoner by white officers and by well over 100 shootings (300 since 2011). Most of the shootings have been in inner-city neighborhoods and involve black shooters and black victims.

In the city's poorest communities, "Speak No Evil," examines the home-grown ethic of retaliatory -- even vigilante-like -- crimes as an enforcement of the community's own justice system; imposed there because many don't trust police.

Our stories, told by reporters Joan Garrett McClane and Todd South, show the struggle of a mother to get justice for her son in a part of town where "snitches get stitches, snitches get ditches." The mother plainly acknowledges that she herself grew up with a see-no-evil, speak-no-evil ethic. And she taught it to her son.

But make no mistake: This problem is not just one of race. It is a problem of poverty -- one of education and income gaps. And that stark social cliff has a resultant influence on trust and understanding. Moreover, even though the "speak no evil" shootings have occurred largely in the black community -- they involve just a sliver of Chattanooga's 35-percent black population. "Speak no evil" is not a culture borne out among the city's many middle-class black and mixed neighborhoods.

Here's a case in point: On Wednesday morning, a 39-year-old was shot at the intersection of North Terrace and Moore Road in Chattanooga -- an apparent victim of road rage. Witnesses talked. They said the shooter fled in a gold sedan. You could think of that incident almost as a drive-by shooting. But with witness help, by evening a 62-year-old was charged with criminal homicide and aggravated assault.

In contrast, in Chattanooga's inner-city, silence is so prevalent it affects citywide crime clearance rates. In 1991, a record murder year, police tallied 49 homicides, but cleared 93 percent of the cases. Now police say 58 percent of open Chattanooga homicide and shooting investigations are moribund because of witness silence.

Tonight's first step must be understanding. Following a national crime fighting model adopted by new Mayor Andy Berke, some call for a police and authority apology.

Frankly, everyone -- on all sides -- needs to make an apology.

But more importantly, everyone on all sides needs to put the past behind and make a new commitment to working together -- to building one strong, understanding, compassionate, diverse city that is too successful to harbor pockets of generational poverty.

The meeting is 6 p.m. at 200 W. 38th Street in Chattanooga.

We can do this.

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jaredstory said...

Concerned Citizens for Justice Statement on "Speak No Evil" Series and Forum and the Chattanooga Violence Reduction Initiative:

December 19, 2013 at 9:42 a.m.
conservative said...

I believe I understand Ms. Sohn.

If the police will apologize for something the black folks will start snitching on black killers and gang killings.

December 19, 2013 at 10:29 a.m.
TirnaNOG said...

Pam, you and TFP just don't GET IT! This is not a movie script where a few apologies here and there and all will go well. Yes, the piece was well written, and TFP and someone will likely win some national writers award and everyone will pat them on their backs for a job well done, but the problem is far more deeper and darker than people in the black community refusing to snitch for fear of reprisal from criminals. What about law enforcement maybe having played an indirect, or even direct role, in the escalation of crime in these communities? A few name drops here and there. A whisper that so-in-so is a snitch. These are reality issues for the black community. The mistrust goes far more deeper than police abuse, abuse of power and the use of excessive force.

There really are two America's. The one that feels privileged and protected by authority and the other where monsters are real. They sometimes wear a badge and they have the authority and power to forever alter and change your destiny and even end your life, and there's a helpless and hopeless feeling that not a damN thing can or will be done about it.

Sometimes the bad guys wear uniforms. They hide behind a mask of only wanting to serve and protect, but they use their position of power as a cover for their hatred, bigotry. And a thousand apologies can't or want change that reality. Especially when there's no change within how the police have been allowed, even encouraged to go into the communities behaving as an invading/occupying force

December 19, 2013 at 2:10 p.m.
soakya said...

"Tonight's first step must be understanding. Following a national crime fighting model adopted by new Mayor Andy Berke, some call for a police and authority apology."

Just looked at the Higher Tower pdf and how violent crime and drug related crime decreased in High Tower N.C but no mention of what happened to surrounding counties and cities.

December 20, 2013 at 1:08 p.m.
aae1049 said...

That's right they just ran um out of town. They are trying to do that now through the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

December 20, 2013 at 5:27 p.m.
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