Positive Solutions to Vexing Divisions in Society

“We would like to address the issue of the impact of our words in today’s civic and political discourse.”

I am pleased to announce two new topic areas for the Big Words Blog Site. They are “Letters to The Editor” and “Perspectives on Culture and Society”. The following discussion is the first of many submissions of its kind and was written with the intent of pointing readers and society towards constructive solutions. The authors are Dr. Joan E. Cephas, and Dr. Ralph G. Perrino whose bios and contact information are at the end of the piece.

The views expressed are those of the authors and not the platform itself. As these are potentially sensitive topics, please leave respectful comments if you wish to make your voice heard. Look for a podcast to start soon between the three of us on my Big Discussions76 YouTube channel, where we will discuss this topic and others. Finally please consider joining the Big Words LLC newsletter.

* * *

Varying Perspectives on Current Issues

Our perspective on current issues sometimes differs from those who have come from a different social or economic background than our own. We certainly respect everyone’s view, regardless of their political persuasion. As educators, we believe that the role of a teacher is to orchestrate, administrate, and educate, not indoctrinate. Maybe most importantly, we have always believed (and practiced) that everyone’s view has some validity in the context of their lives.

The Power of Words

In that context, we would like to address the issue of the impact of our words in today’s civic and political discourse. In our divided environment, we continually hear the phrases, “defund the police”, “white privilege”, and “critical race theory”. These are phrases that only serve to divide, not unite, the nation. There is a solution. Simply changing the perspective and the verbiage associated with this issue would go a long way towards lowering the temperature of our public discourse.

Defunding The Police or Resource Reallocation?

“Defunding?” No. Reallocation of resources? Yes. The phrase “defund the police”, although divisive, has merit. Restating the phrase with the term “reallocation of police resources” would go far to lower the divisiveness and confusion that “defund the police” often brings to the discussion. When discussed outside of the anger in which this phrase is often used, there may be some validity to the idea.

Redirecting the role of police in the community amounts to a reallocation of resources, not “defunding” the police. This approach can take on a variety of other forms. Providing police officers with thorough and comprehensive training in the area of domestic disputes can go a long way toward helping them in potentially dangerous situations. Increasing the number of trained police resource officers in public schools is also an area that would assist in defusing violent situations in our schools. These officers develop relationships with students, families, and school personnel, and they can serve as the liaison between the school, families, and the community.

Community Policing, Affordable Housing, and Community Mental Health Services

Another area where this may apply is community policing. This may include police-sponsored programs such as sports teams, clubs, and other activities. Embedding this in a community would go far to create buy-in among adults and children and a sense of togetherness, rather than divisiveness. Policing of this type engenders trust and confidence. Parents and children generally support and are appreciative of these initiatives. Police become role models in this environment. It provides a venue for teaching and learning for the officers and the community. Maybe most important, the idea forms trusting relationships that would decrease misconceptions of law enforcement and communities.

Creating affordable housing that enables police, teachers, and other important role models to reside in a community would also go far to create a sense of unity and cooperation, not division, in that community. Local government can play a critical role in this area by working with landowners, developers, and others to develop economic incentives to embed affordable housing in communities where crime has historically been a problem.

Improving community mental health services can also provide an additional level of support for law enforcement. Sending a mental health professional without police support to a potential crime might place everyone at risk or harm, or even death. Mental health professionals are not trained or armed to protect themselves or the person in crises. They are, however, trained in de-escalation. Mental health professionals who are part of the overall policing process may add an additional level of support to often overtaxed police officers.

Repairing Fractured Police and Community Relationships

Important to this discussion is the fact that a long history of distrust between law enforcement and many minority communities will surely be a significant impediment. This will be no easy task. It will take leadership, perseverance, and patience to create a sense of trust and rapport between what has become often opposing sides of the issue. That said, simply changing the perspective and the verbiage associated with this issue would go a long way toward lowering the temperature of our public discourse.

Discourse Regarding White Privilege

White privilege. Now, there is a phrase that surely has divided the nation. There is little doubt that an economic chasm exists between White, Black, and Hispanic populations in America. Depending on which statistic one examines, the average White family in America has a total net worth six to ten times that of the average Black or Hispanic family. From a purely economic perspective, this disparity is, yes, systemic, persistent, and insidious.

This stems from generations of racial inequality and injustice perpetrated on minorities. This is not an easy thing for many Americans to accept, but it is an unfortunate reality. And, yes, systematic discrimination in the areas of housing, employment, and education has furthered this economic chasm. Overt and subtle discrimination has impacted minorities in America for generations. This needs to change. The problem is the term “White privilege” does not increase the level of awareness it is intended to achieve.

Instead, the phrase “White privilege” only serves to increase resentment. One side – minority citizens use this phrase to challenge the system and accuse the other side of historic wrongdoing. The other side – White citizens are offended by being accused of something for which they believe they were not responsible. It is often used to divide the have and have-nots. If the focus is on race, people will ignore the transgressions of the super wealthy who are predominantly White. These same people hold the power to make economic, social, and political decisions. Using the term White privilege pits the non-wealthy against each other. This allows the wealthy to do whatever is necessary to maintain their position of power and privilege. It is time to cease using the highly divisive term “White privilege” and call it what it is – economic and social inequality.

Age Appropriateness for Discussing Complex Topics

Critical race theory – yet another inflammatory, divisive, counter-productive catch phrase in today’s polarized political environment. The topic of race and ethnic relations has been a primary concern of behavioral scientists for generations. W.E.B. DuBois addressed this topic more than 100 years ago. Academics have studied the topic for generations. This generation of students is multi-racial, and they want to know accurate historical information. It is a legitimate staple of any Introduction to Sociology course on any American college campus.

This topic has historically been introduced at the high school level. Few would argue that, taught by qualified individuals, the topic of race and ethnic relations is an appropriate topic for upper-level high school or college students. Conversely, many are livid that their elementary and middle school children are being “brainwashed” and “indoctrinated” by teachers ill-equipped to manage this delicate topic in their classrooms.

Rather than singling out teachers, administrators, and school board members, we need to take a serious look at how and when this topic is introduced into the curricula of local school systems. Teaching elementary school children tolerance for others is an admirable goal. That should happen in the classroom, and it should be modeled at home before a student arrives in kindergarten.

Instilling guilt in an elementary student for the possible actions of his or her ancestors does little to heal the wrongs of the past. It serves only to confuse a young mind at a time when that very mind is malleable and ill prepared for such intensity. Surely, we can find a way to teach tolerance and history in school and at home without concealing the uncomfortable truth of historical racial injustice, while at the same time not placing the burden of the past on our children’s shoulders.

We must find a way to listen and speak to one another in a civil, calm, rational, informed tone if we are to improve the fabric of our civic culture. Simply changing the words we use to address controversial topics would go far toward reaching that goal.

About the Authors

Joan E. Cephas, Ed.D, LICSW, LCSW

Dr. Joan E. Cephas is a retired social worker and school psychologist from the District of Columbia Public Schools with 22 years of service. Dr. Cephas is the owner of Timing & Associates LLC, which
offers mental health/counseling services, behavioral health services, child welfare and educational consultation, parent education, elderly care resources/referral services, critical incident support, and Employee Assistance Program services.

Dr. Cephas has over 30 years of providing child welfare, family, elderly, and mental health services/resources in public and private sectors. Her mission is to empower parents to be advocates for their children, promote academic excellence and success among youth, and to enhance wholeness for individuals, families, and the community. Dr. Cephas has a special interest in empowering African American youth males to become leaders in their home, school, and community. Comments and or questions can be sent to Dr. Cephas at dr.joancephas@gmail.com .

Ralph G. Perrino, MPA, MA, DA

Dr. Perrino was an educator and business owner in the Northern Virginia area. He taught sociology, political science, and business management at Northern Virginia Community College for thirty-five years. In that capacity, he saw many students in his classes who had either come to the community college because they failed in their first attempt at a four-year institution, or because they chose to defer college until after working or military service.

Many of the students Dr. Perrino taught had also been diagnosed with various learning disabilities that presented challenges and impediments to the learning process. It was for this reason that Dr. Perrino established Northern Virginia Tutoring Service. He recognized a need to provide practical advice and service to students and families who faced a myriad of challenges associated with the education process. Many parents and students benefited from consultations with Dr. Perrino and with the assistance of tutors from Northern Virginia Tutoring Service. Regarding the modern educational landscape, he states:

“The field of education is replete with issues that seem complex, confusing and, at times, intractable to many parents and students. The result is that many parents and students do not know where to find honest, factual information to guide them, or they make decisions without seeking authoritative resources of assistance.”

Dr. Perrino has long been committed to helping students and parents maneuver through these issues. He has always believed that contributing to the welfare of the community is an integral part of business ownership. That is reflected in his considerable involvement in community affairs in Arlington County, VA and Falls Church, VA. Comments and or questions can be sent to Dr. Perrino at nvtutoring@gmail.com .

What Could Enhance Your Local Community

The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success. If you’re involved in your city’s urban planning, you want to figure out how to get the most out of your area for your residents and your community. Addressing a few areas can make more community a place everyone will want to move to. The following contributed post is entitled, What Could Enhance Your Local Community.

* * *

When it comes to your local community, you may feel like you have a solid connection with it. It may have been a place that you grew up in, or somewhere that you have grown to love having recently moved into the area. However, is your local community thriving? More people are doing what they can to improve the areas they live, and because of that, it can benefit you in other ways such as an increase in property values. So what can you do to enhance your local community? Here are some of the best ways you can do it.

Image source – Pixabay – CC0 License

Add a golf course if you have the space

It is always going to be a good idea to encourage more recreational activities in your local area, and one of the ways you could do that is through opening up a golf course. It could be the type of golf course that has a clubhouse that can hold events, or just simple a recreational space that can be enjoyed by all. This is when you may need the help of experts in Golf Course Building Consultation to help come up with a plan and make sure that things are on the right path. This could be a great way to help encourage more activity in the community and give the local people lots more options.

Make fitness a focus

Fitness is really important for people to enjoy a healthy lifestyle, but often the worry of costs of gym membership can be too much. So this could be a great opportunity for the community to make fitness more of a focus. This could be easily done through things such as adding free equipment in the parks. They can be easy to install and makes fitness available for the masses. Then there is the introduction of bike lanes and pathways for runners. This encourages more people to feel confident in getting out and enjoying activities like this without the worry of getting in peoples way.

Encourage small businesses to thrive

The heart of the community is the small businesses and the shops that line the high street and the local area, and these are often the things that suffer within the community when things are not going the right way. The way that people can support their community is to shop locally and support the local businesses in the area. This can help them to thrive, and it can also help you to make the most of what you have on your doorstep.

Create local events all can get involved in

Finally, the last thing to consider doing would be to organise local events. This could be ones that have a family focus, or ones that are specific for businesses to get involved in. It brings people together and it can also be the perfect way to boost the economy in the area and make it thrive.

Let’s hope that these tips help you to encourage more people to enhance the local community in different ways.

What Creates A Community Feeling In Today’s World?

A key focus of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success and a key focus is current events. Some would argue that as the world is changing, the sense of community is being lost. If that’s so, it’s going to be important to understand how to build communities and pass that information as much as possible. The following contributed post is entitled, What Creates A Community Feeling In Today’s World?

* * *

Communities have always been a significant part of human history. Together, we are stronger, as the saying goes. Communities only exist when people get together. However, while throughout history, communities were created through a natural process to encourage the survival of its people, things have changed dramatically. The days were the population worked together to protect and feed their villages are long gone. Nowadays, you can order everything you need from your preferred online retailer in a matter of a few clicks. As a result, the community spirit is dying out in the western world. Neighbors don’t interact with each other. People help each other so rarely that when they do, their action makes the news. Local businesses suffer against big competitors.

But communities have, nevertheless, a raison d’être, even in modern society. They continue to bring us together around the same goals. More importantly, they give economic and business advantages to the local population. What can we do, today, to rebuild our community feelings?

Community meeting

1. A common platform to discuss local interests.

Each community shares common interests that are related to the specific elements of their local areas. Take, for example, the population of a town. Creating a forum that discusses the infrastructures and local events will appeal to the locals. Even self-government towns that have grown together into a vast concentration of population can tap into their common interests to build their identity. Take, for example, The Villages golf course discussion online; it helps the population to connect. Additionally, the advertising campaign to play free golf for life in the area ensures that the locals take the condition of their golf course very seriously. The bottom line is that once you find the common interest, you can start creating a community of enthusiasts who share knowledge, tips, and stories.

2. Keeping in contact with the audience.

An active community is not only about talking together. People also need to be heard. At a business or municipality level, every project to bring people together on an online platform or through a community center needs to be monitored. Indeed, you have to keep in touch with your audience, making sure they know about the steps your organization takes to protect the community. Email marketing campaigns or direct mailers are excellent ways of informing your community, for instance. Additionally, your communication strategy needs to include a contact email address or phone number to gather relevant feedback.

3. Creating a positive local network.

Last but not least, when a community is defined by its geography – people from the same town or district – it’s essential to encourage the local network of businesses and experts. Ultimately, shopping local is about helping the small and independent businesses to thrive, because every dollar you spend locally goes back to the community. While you can’t get rid of online retailers and other giant competitors, it is in the interest of the community to support the local economy. Indeed, not only does it create a sense of shared values within the population, but it can also lead to the creation of new jobs and wealth for the local area. A community that builds a strong economy stays together.

In conclusion, communities are more relevant than ever, even though our modern lifestyle doesn’t give them a chance to grow. It’s time for businesses and local organizations to invest time and effort into building shared interests, audience, and economic network.

Give Back and Gain Loyalty: How to Get Your Small Business Involved in the Local Community

Two of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. One way to strengthen your business enterprise, is to strengthen its ties with the community. You can do this in numerous ways. The following contributed post is therefore entitled, Give Back and Gain Loyalty: How to Get Your Small Involved in the Local.

* * *

It is common sense to all that small businesses are the economic backbone of our local communities. These small businesses from local accountants, florists, and coffee shops will create new jobs for the community, as well provide the services that the community needs. Many like to shop local to support, so there is still a need for these kinds of businesses. Small businesses play a large role in the country too, with it being reported that over half of citizens work for or own a small business. But as a small business owner, you can really make the most of the community where your business is placed; giving back can boost your business as you gain loyal fans and customers.

If you want to get your small business involved with the local community, then what are the best ways to do just that? Here are some ideas and tips to help. It is a practice that is definitely worth it.

image

• Local Expertise

If you are known in the community for your skills, whether that be an account or a hairdresser, then people will come to you with their questions (like tax advice or hairstyles). So being able to establish yourself as a local expert can really be a good idea. Get involved with local groups on www.Facebook.com, go to community events, write for local newspapers or media, and show your expertise in those ways.

• Support Charity

If there are some local charities that are doing great things or that are a cause close to your heart, then why not get involved and support them? It could be something as simple as donating a certain percentage of profits to the organization, or helping to arrange events or fundraisers for the charity. It gets your business name out there and show you’re doing good, as well as those local people within the charity knowing all that you do, and then being more likely to come for you when they need the services of your business.

• Sports Teams

From children’s soccer teams to high school football, sports in the local areas is what helps bring people together. If your business is able to be a part of that, then it can only be a good thing. Think about sponsorship for a sports team perhaps or donating things for where they play, such as display bricks from www.brickmarkers.com, for example. Getting involved in the best way that you see fit can help to expose your business to local people on a regular basis.

• Local Schools

No doubt there is some kind of school in your local community, whether that be a nursery school to a high school. They will always be looking for help with things, as well as donations to fundraisers. If you are a local builder or decorator, for example, you could help the school with a project to clear up the play area or painting the walls. Being seen out there doing good in their local community is such a great thing for a small business to be doing.

How to Use Your Business Acumen To Help a Community

Two of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. Running a business isn’t all about making money in some instances. In some cases it’s important to consider how to better the community that your business is based in. The following contributed post is thus entitled, How to Use Your Business Acumen To Help a Community.

* * *

When it comes to running a business, you feel pretty confident about your abilities. You have several successful projects under your belt so far and you’re ready to add even more to your list. You take running your business extremely seriously, so when you think about a company that could genuinely help other people it makes you pretty excited. You want to use your business knowledge and acumen to help a community and create a truly worthwhile venture for once. Instead of being in it for the money, you’re ready to find new ways to make people in your community feel wanted and included.

Build a New Community Centre

One of the first ways in which you can make a difference in your local area, is by building a brand new community centre or church. Perhaps your village was involved in a natural disaster or the pride and joy of the town was destroyed by vandalism. This is the perfect opportunity to contact a church construction company, Daniels Construction and start a brand new project. Even if there is already a building in place, you can expand and reconstruct the current one in whatever way you wish. No matter what type of budget or time scale you are working to, you know you will be able to get the job done with a team of professionals on hand at all times.

Image

Start a Campaign to Help the Homeless

Now that your new commercial building project is underway, you might be able to start thinking about how you can give back. Why not start up a church group and invite the homeless to meet new people a couple of times a week? There are so many ways that you can give back to the people who are less fortunate than you. A soup kitchen or a career support group is also an excellent idea for your new community centre.

Give Troubles Youths a Chance

If you live in an area where you know there are a whole load of troubled teens, then you might just be able to help them out in life. Offer to give those troubled teens a little responsibility, which will allow some structure in their life. Whether they’re helping to make coffee in the church or cleaning up after an event, their parents will be grateful for you reaching out to those who are truly in need of a helping hand.

So if you have been doing some soul searching recently it’s time to start considering all of your options. Nowadays it can be very tricky to start up a business venture that is really going to have a positive impact on the people around you. Whether you’re building a new community church or you’re trying to volunteer locally, there are so many big ways that you can make a difference in your area. Being a business owner isn’t just about earning respect and making money; it’s about helping the people around you and understanding the importance of giving back.