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Constructive energy 

Push for change on the local government level

A whale of a lot of years ago I read about how in the past, in some parts of the South, once a year, white people would gather up buckets of whitewash, and without being invited, go into the Black parts of town and whitewash the shacks that the people were living in. The objective was to do something "good for those poor folks." If the poor folks could have some pride in their houses, maybe they would work harder. When the Black people stayed poor, it was their fault because look what a good thing the white people had done for them. Of course, there was no discussion between the people over what the poor folks really needed, like good educations, good job opportunities, or being able to purchase a house or rent a decent apartment. Those things that provide the bootstraps by which people are supposed to pull themselves up.

A lot of the rhetoric that is going on today in SLO County has brought up that old memory. It is not necessary for anyone to decide what poor people need—poor people are perfectly aware of what they need. Not want, need. Good educational opportunities, decent job opportunities, housing, safe neighborhoods. These are some of the basic necessities for anyone in our society. These are the tools that everyone in our county must have. And how do we make sure that they do?

There is a lot of really good energy now in our county, among a great variety of people. The mostly peaceful protests have made most people aware that there may be, lurking in the corners, problems that need to have good solutions. Let's put this great energy to work constructively now by lobbying our Board of Supervisors, city councils, boards of school districts, and community services districts to evaluate their policies, ordinances, hiring practices, budgeting practices, and general attitudes to determine if there are any areas of responsibility that need to be improved on, and then to lobby these same governmental agencies to improve them. This can be done by establishing ad hoc commissions of public citizens with expertise in those areas to investigate and evaluate whether there are any road blocks, how to get rid of them, and how to then do things better.

Some agencies have started down this path, and it is a good one for all to consider, all the while keeping in mind that their purview is this county only. SLO County agencies and businesses cannot be made responsible for what has happened in Minnesota or elsewhere.

Private business does not get a pass here. It is incumbent on business to make sure that there is no red-lining in this county, that people are not denied the right to rent because of the color of their skin, that people are hired and served equally in all business establishments. Once again, perhaps the Chamber of Commerce could establish a commission to evaluate and promote good business practices in this county.

What individuals might consider doing is to stop pointing their fingers at "the other" as the problem. Someone infinitely wiser than I said, "Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road show mentality all over again part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor." (Matt. 7:1-5) (The Message, Ecumenical Bible)

So, these are some actions we might all become part of rather than just posting on social media. Lobby government to do some good evaluations to determine how things can be done better for everyone. Point out bad practices if necessary, but try not to demonize anyone in the process. If in business, evaluate how it might be possible to come up with some better business practices, and if an individual, make sure your own behavior is not a detriment to someone else, in any way. Δ

Shirley Bianchi wrote to New Times from Cambria. Send comments through the editor at or write a response for publication and email it to

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