Patience: When is it no longer a virtue?

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Many of us here at the MSR recall being taught by our elders that “Patience is a virtue,” and very often we have found their advice to be true. Often, if we wait and exercise patience, in time what is fair and what is just will prevail. Those in power who are doing wrong sometimes come to see the error of their ways. They begin to listen. They hear the cries of the people and do what they can to relieve their pain.

Sadly, in recent years here in Minnesota, our patience has all too often borne no fruit.

For many years now, the MSR has published story after story about how the educational system is failing our Black children as the achievement gap between Blacks and Whites expands into a chasm. Every year we patiently ask the same questions. Every year we get the same answers: The responsible officials recognize the problem. It is a difficult one. They are working on it.

For many years we have published stories about how Black men in Minnesota have the highest unemployment rates, the highest death-by-violence and death-by-heart-attack rates, the highest high-school dropout rates, and on and on. Something is terribly wrong. Every year the responsible officials tell us they recognize that yes, something is terribly wrong. They assure us they are working on it.

Over many years now we have written stories about the voracious pipeline that at one end sucks up our African American youth as school “discipline problems” and at the other end deposits them into for-profit prisons where so many thousands of our men and young boys languish, looking forward at best to a second-class life as branded felons. “A serious problem,” the responsible parties agree. They are working on it.

Year after year we have published stories about how our local major media — radio, television and print — fail to reflect in their management and among their staff the diversity of the people they presume to serve as news and entertainment sources. “Yes,” they reassure us every year, “we know that’s a problem and we’re working on it.”

Year after year we have published stories about poor graduation rates at the University of Minnesota for Black athletes — and for Black students, athletes or not, throughout the entire Minnesota state system of colleges and universities as well. The responsible officials unfailingly assure us they are acutely aware of the problem. They are all hard at work on it. Have been for years now.

On the subject of athletics, year after year we publish stories about how the front offices and management staff of our several professional teams do not reflect either the players on the floor/field or the sports fans they serve. Not surprisingly, every year they admit the problem. Every year they are working on it. The Minnesota Twins, years after we built them a new stadium, still can’t seem to include anyone Black among their stadium vendors. They encourage our continued patience.

Every year, MSR’s stories about shortages of affordable housing, homeless Black families by the hundreds, thousands over the years, and now school buses just for children who are living in homeless shelters after years of devastating home foreclosures that daily, sheriff’s sale after sheriff’s sale, destroy our families and neighborhoods — these painful, heartbreaking (to us, at least) stories elicit the same now-predictable responses from officials in charge: They’ve been working on these problems for years.

They assure us they have plans and programs in place to eliminate poverty, homelessness, gun violence, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases — you name it, they’re working on it. They provide dates, timelines, percentages, impressive charts and graphs prepared by professional social scientists and university professors, all of whom also urge patience.

The dates are always far enough down the road that, should the plan fail to deliver, its authors will have long since “moved on to other opportunities,” as the press releases phrase it. The City of Minneapolis has a goal to “reduce poverty 25 percent by 2016.” The State declared years ago that they were determined to eliminate poverty in Minnesota by 2020. We don’t hear about that anymore. We weren’t holding our breath anyway. Our patience had long since worn too thin for that.

It is our observation that year after year we see these calamities continue or grow worse while so many apparently sincere, capable, and well-paid officials keep assuring us through their public relations staff how hard they are working to address our concerns. But the bottom line from all of us here at the MSR, is this: We have seen little or no real improvement in any of these many severe problems since we began consistently reporting on them many years ago.

Despite all the talk and all the fine rhetoric and promises, school failure and the systematic assault on Black men and their families and the school-to-prison pipeline and the all-White front offices of local TV and radio and newspapers and sports teams (and most other corporations) and Black homelessness and gun violence — all of these relentless assaults continue unabated year after year without relief.

We ask our longtime readers, loyal supporters, subscribers and website visitors to help us answer one question: When is it time to declare that we have reached the end of our patience? And help us with a second question as well: What comes next when patience is exhausted?

Too much patience, virtue that it may be, can also be a fault, an evasion of responsibility. Too much passive patience can become a failure to act when more forceful, aggressive impatience is the right and necessary thing. Had Rosa Parks been more patient with Montgomery bus company racism and moved to the back of the bus, where would we be now? Had Martin Luther King, Jr. been more patient with Jim Crow, where would we all be now? Dr. King’s first book, after all, was Why We Can’t Wait. Out of patience!

The MSR encourages community-wide discussion on when it is time for us to declare an end to patience with Minnesota’s never-ending false promises to relieve the ongoing devastation of its African American communities — and other communities of color as well. Over all these years, this newspaper has consistently, and when necessary forcefully advocated on behalf of Minnesota’s Black community in the tradition of its founder, Cecil Newman. We proudly invoke Mr. Newman’s heritage when we say to our readers that, after all these years publishing hundreds of stories filled with empty promises from Minnesota officials claiming to understand and sympathize with our problems, all working so hard on solutions that never seem to arrive — we are fast reaching the end of our patience. 

How about you?


Look for upcoming “In Our View” columns on “What comes next when patience is exhausted?”


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