Getting at the Roots of the Problem in Atlanta

Pam Ellis/Kaizen Inspired Life

Pam Ellis/Kaizen Inspired LifeToday is Friday, January 31, 2014.

Today is Friday, January 31, 2014.

My friend Pam posted an image on Facebook that sparked some thoughts.  If you think of the tree as your thoughts, words and actions, the branches of the tree could be thought of as the results of your thoughts, words and actions.  The roots, then, would be the underlying, subconscious beliefs that inform everything we think, say and do.

I’ve been thinking about this in terms of the storm that hit the Atlanta area recently.  The city received just over two inches of snow, on top of ice formed by freezing rain.  Schools were open as usual on Tuesday, even though both the freezing rain and the snowfall had been predicted well in advance.  Atlanta doesn’t have the number of plows and salt spreaders of cities such as Chicago and Minneapolis, but they did have some equipment.

A lot of things happened that shouldn’t have happened.  The city, state and school authorities should never have allowed schools to open on Tuesday.  Salt spreaders should have been out on the streets by Monday night.  There should never have been so many cars on the road.  In fact, one story, in particular, made it clear that in Atlanta there is little in the way of public transportation between the city and the suburbs, so that there is an “over-dependence” on cars.

I have no idea why the school administration, city authorities, and the state transportation department didn’t pay more attention to the forecasts made by CNN and The Weather Channel.  After all, both of these stations are based in Atlanta!  I do have some idea, however, why Atlanta doesn’t have a better system of public transportation between the city and the suburbs, however.

In the illustration, the trunk of the tree represents the reactions to the storm:  ignoring the severity of the forecast, failing to salt the roads ahead of the storm, allowing the children to go to school on Tuesday and closing the schools as late as 2 p.m.   The branches represent what happened afterwards: thousands stuck in traffic for 10 hours or more, over 1,200 accidents, 130 people injured, over 3,000 children stranded in schools overnight, and thousands of cars abandoned on the highways.

Now, how about the roots.  Well, when I applied for a teaching job in one of the suburban schools operated by DeKalb County, I did not have a car, nor did I have a driver’s license.  I just assumed that I would be able to get a bus or a subway to work.  Not so.  The lady who interviewed me very unapologetically stated that there was no bus service in the suburbs because they didn’t want the poor people to come into the suburbs.  The ostensible reason was to prevent crime, with the tacit understanding, of course, that most criminals must be black people, and what would the blacks be doing out in the suburbs, anyway, except stealing?

So there you have it.  The “over-dependence on cars’ attributed to Atlanta and her suburbs is due to racism, pure and simple.  But of course, much of the racism in the South is encoded in deeply-held beliefs locked away in the subconscious minds of the white folks who were born and raised there.

Of course, now they are complaining that they can’t afford to build a subway or bus system, but what they really can’t do is figure out how to have a public transportation system that transports white people, but not people of color.

If you thought the Paula Deen fiasco was evidence of racism, that was just the tip of the iceberg.  :-/


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