OP-ED: “To Stop The Violence, Make People In The Community Feel Valued”
TN Congressional Candidate Nathaniel Doss on How to Help Stop the Violence in Tennessee
Recently the community was challenged to tell our elected officials what assistance we would like from them. This is an intricate question that requires us to also pull back the layers to a historically uncomfortable position. None of the violence we are seeing is new. None of the outrage from the community is new. Most recently we saw a heinous crime committed against seven women at a celebration for our community. This act of violence left me shaken to my core not only because of the personal attachment to one of the victims but because, as a man, I was taught my main responsibility was to protect the matriarch of the family.
I felt that I had personally failed those women; like WE failed them.
Changing a culture is never easy, especially one living with generational PTSD. We have suffered from eras of trauma. Due to the constant trauma that we have begun associating with the “Black experience” we have become desensitized to the social negative reinforcements that control society. These constructs are the checks put in place to discourage crime. When an individual feels as if they have nothing to lose, there are really no limits to their depravity.
When a group of people recognizes that imprisonment is routine and commonplace, it becomes an expected outcome. When, as a people, we have seen horrors firsthand and not just heard about them in stories, those horrors are as easily dealt as they are received.
We must make our people understand that they have value to our community.
We must get our young people to understand that not only is their life important but who they will be in our community in the future is important as well.
We must cultivate and grow empathy again despite the horrors we have seen.
That lack of empathy was what made shooting into a crowd of women and children at a peaceful event, a reasonable action for a traumatized mind. Empathy and love must be taught as early and with as much emphasis as potty training, colors, and shapes.
Conversely, we speak of culture change, and it is admittedly a dire need; however how can we begin to change a culture of a group of people with unmet basic needs? How shall you preach to a man that is hungry? How can you hope to correct a child who does not have a safe place to rest?
Until those basic needs are met, we cannot hope to make any change. We MUST address the needs first.
We have to tap those resources that are available to meet those needs and we must start early. Exposure to a different possible outcome is key. What if instead of watching numerous relatives and friends be incarcerated, it was more common to see numerous friends and family graduate? We must normalize success and growth. We must celebrate and incentivize it, if necessary.
Actions that will begin the change are true community policing, access to nutrition, and home ownership for people employed in our community. We have community policing some may say, and we do to an extent. Let’s intensify our efforts at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and Chattanooga State Community College so we can recruit members of the community. In Chattanooga we had an era that was successful with this, no matter the reason it ceased. It needs to be reinstated with a deliberate and focused effort.
As someone stated at the meeting Dr. Mackey organized, we also need social workers to work directly with our Chattanooga Police department. That means increasing their budget to employ said social workers that would work shoulder to shoulder with our police department protecting our city 24 hours a day. Allowing our police to focus their efforts more on the ilk that plagues our community.
I read today, “Teach a man to fish after you give him a fish. Learning anything on a hungry stomach is less likely to be retained.” I couldn’t agree more, we have children going to school hungry and coming home to hunger. In many areas of Chattanooga where minorities reside there is a lack of suitable access to nutrition. A hungry child will not concentrate in school or behave in the community. Their main concern is rectifying that hunger if only for today. I believe we must partner with businesses, and social development departments at all three municipalities: City, County, and State, in order to ensure that we do not have a health crisis and that grocery stores are accessible in every community.
As I have been walking around this summer introducing myself and listening to the community, I listened as many were fearful of their community losing its identity. Many spoke of not wanting the perceived crime that comes with “affordable housing’’ i.e. apartment complexes. I sympathize with their fears and understand because I live within their community and have seen violence on my own street. We need to partner with developers, the city, the county, and community associations so we can best add homeownership to our underserved communities without changing the dynamics of that community.
We must educate our neighbors; affordable housing no longer looks like their homes. It will not have the same spacing in between homes and may not remotely resemble their homes in appearance. What it will do is bring hard working people that want to break generational cycles; people that want to add value to a community because they have a direct interest in doing so.
We must make home ownership accessible and a reality for those that may not have seen this as a possibility. This may mean creative lending and alternative credit scoring. There may be fear of perceived risk, but the payout is more than worth it. What better way to ensure a thriving community and thus a swift investment return? Ownership in any form creates pride and stewardship.
You take care of what is yours; that goes for houses, communities, and people no matter your socio-economic class.
We must challenge ourselves to partner with unions, business partners, our educational institutions to provide and help prepare workers for more careers and not just dead-end employment. Meaningful employment, safety, ready access to nutrition, flourishing schools, and homeownership will be impactful when adding Pride, thus changing the culture. Our community has worked hard to improve the starting pay with City employment and attract employers such as Volkswagen, Amazon, and many others.
Productivity is directly affected by stable homes and the provision of basic needs. It’s all a cycle of growth. We all have an impact to make, some know right away and others as they grow into their calling. The Black community has managed to struggle through all these years, but it is like a doctor concentrating on the symptoms and not the cause. It is past time to cure the disease that is eating away at our community.
Nate Doss is running for congress as a Democrat in Tennessee’s 3rd District. LEARN MORE.