Some Justice, Some Peace

In lower-economic neighborhoods, there are usually a lot of little stores.  They charge up the wazoo for everything.  Part of it is because they cannot have “loss leaders” or buy in large quantities like supermarket chains do.  I understand this, having helped run a co-op grocery store in the 70s.

But part of it is greed and racism, too.  It’s cheap to rent business space in low-income neighborhoods.  Business owners always pay themselves first, and I understand this.  But when I see how people who own these places live, and what cars they drive, and how they dress, it makes me mad.

Sure, they’re entitled to charge whatever they like and buy whatever they like and live wherever they like, but the profits they are pulling out of those places is, in my opinion, obscene.  And many neighborhood people cannot get to the supermarket, so they are stuck.  They live in “food deserts”.

Food deserts are areas where there is no fresh, healthy food, just places that sell high-profit junk like chips and soda and candy etc.   And these areas are usually in poor neighborhoods.

And, I don’t know if any of you have ever patronized places like this, but if you ever do, watch how the owners treat the customers.  It seems as if, to the owners, everyone is a criminal.

Many of these businesses are run by immigrants from Asia, the Middle East, and Pakistan (yes, I know Pakistan is South Asian, I write it this way to distinguish them from China and Vietnam).  I think it’s putting it mildly to state that a lot of those types of business owners come from fairly racist cultures, and they don’t necessarily drop that when they come here.

Not all.  It’s never all people.  It’s a trend I have seen and that others have expressed to me.  The hostility sometimes goes both ways – but, in the case of the community’s attitude towards the shopkeepers,  it’s got a class basis to it.

That doesn’t make it right, but it makes it a bit more understandable, in context.

So, when you look at all that, and add gangs to the mix, and stir in some impressionable youth, is it any wonder there is looting during riots?  Those folks aren’t just in “gimme” mode, they’re pissed off at being ripped off by these little places.  Little places who never seem to give a damn thing back to the community.

Rite Aid got hit, probably, because they have things people need.  When I see a picture of a youth proudly holding up a package of toilet paper that he just stole (yes, toilet paper, not a damn stereo), it becomes clear.  Rite Aid’s prices are not bad, and they take EBT (I know, because I shop there), but they can have shitty attitudes towards the poor.  Again, this is personal experience.

An experience with Rite Aid last year…

Complaining for being treated “less than” because my bank debit card wouldn’t go through.   Having the cashier tell me, “Your card’s no good, I’m not running it again” as she snatched up the non-food items and left the counter.

Calling the district manager to complain.  And being told that “the cashier didn’t really mean it, and they are new employees.”  No apology or anything.

And I’m white.  I can only imagine how that scene would have gone down in the store and on the phone had I been any other color.  How did the cashier know I was poor? I had already paid for the food portion with my EBT card.  How kind of them to let me leave their store with the food purchases, anyway.

I don’t know if that Rite Aid in Baltimore had rude employees.  But rioting and looting do not happen in a vacuum.

There are reasons behind behavior – some of it is anger, as I said; some of it is egging on by the Twitter provocateur; some of it is just being tired of never having enough money for anything (like toilet paper – do you see now?); part of it is gangs; and part of it is group-think.

“Group-think” – That’s when groups seem to operate en masse, and it’s not a race or class thing, it’s a human thing. 

So I hope in the coming months we see some healing and rebuilding.  I would like to see a police-community relations board established (yes, it is too bad my dad can’t run it).  I would like to see the community come back stronger and unified.  I would like to see economic development, too, as well as social programs.

Baltimore could be a future model for how a city treats its poorer citizens.  I really hope that happens.

Today’s weirdness comes from the NPR website “The Two-Way (Breaking News from NPR)”.  An ancient manuscript from the 14th century depicts a character that looks surprisingly like Yoda.  (“Yoda? Is It Thou? Figure in 14th-Century Manuscript Looks Familiar”, Bill Chappell, The Two-Way website, 4/16/2015)

And…recommendations for this week?  Those of you who are sentimental (I am) and who have cable (I don’t, sadly) ought to check out the Hallmark Channel’s “When Calls the Heart”.  It’s about a woman who travels out west from the northeast to teach children in a one-room schoolhouse.  It’s really well-done.  I wish I could watch it but all I can do is pass the word on to those of you who can.

Be good.  Be kind.  Be grateful that you don’t have to start a riot to get someone to listen to you.



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