Work and Responsibility Offer Hope

By Rogers, Josie | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 24, 1995 | Go to article overview

Work and Responsibility Offer Hope


Rogers, Josie, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Henry grew up in the projects and was on welfare as a child. He works in social services and counsels the homeless. Henry's insights lead him to say:

Listen to me: Reformers think they can put criminals or drug addicts in the front door of some rehabilitation program, and out the back door these same people will come - changed and good.

The components of individual human beings are much more complicated than to allow such a cut-and-dried solution. The only thing society can do is offer opportunities to every child. When the child becomes a teen or a man, and he chooses to take no responsibility for himself and murders another human being, he has the right to go to the electric chair.

Along with responsibility goes the work ethic. The habits and lifestyles of my African-American brothers and sisters come from within. We don't hear enough about the lack of work ethic among the inner-city dwellers. I tell you, some people down here do more "just sitting around" than you could imagine. Young and old, they sit and don't apply for the jobs that are out there.

I have restaurant managers tell me they can't keep a dishwasher. There is not enough willingness among the men and women I know to begin as a dishwasher.

"God Bless America," an immigrant from Cambodia said to me - because he says he has the opportunity to work two jobs so he can save money for a house. Some men and women in my neighborhood won't get up off the couch and apply for one job; they're victims of themselves not victims of poverty.

Reform for lazy people who won't take responsibility for their own actions doesn't work. Jail has become meaningless. A man gets 300 years for murder? Those years can be gotten down to 40; the man can actually get out in 15 years. Fifteen years of free room and board creating an even worse monster to be let out in society. Instead of eternal rights, I want to hear about human responsibility.

I sponsor kids in clubs to keep them off the streets, and I hear the boys singing rap songs like: "Walking down the street, sipping on gin and juice. F- the police, just give me your money." Rap artists (who, even from a jail cell, win top video awards) play on appetites and reflect unreal possibilities. Remember how Hitler's twisted methods appealed to a devastated Germany? Rap singers' vices appeal to desperate, neglected kids - kids who are on the verge of making good or bad choices. …

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