“Small town feel with big city amenities.” Although I’ve never seen it explicitly written, I’ve always assumed this has been one of the phrases folks have used to sell Charlotte to out-of-towners.
In 2016, the Chetty study revealed poverty in Charlotte-Mecklenburg as approaching a caste system, and it noted that Mecklenburg only bested one large county in the U.S. in economic mobility — Baltimore County.
Not long after, I talked to folks uptown and asked what, besides crab cakes, comes to mind when they think of Baltimore. One person offered, “The Wire,” an HBO show that used local influence to brilliantly depict the intersection of the drug trade, street violence, economics, politics, schools and media. I responded that our county was barely ahead of Baltimore County on the economic mobility index, and without change we would continue to see similar upticks in violence and the elimination of that “small town feel” pitch.
“It’s parenting and personal responsibility,” I heard.
As a personally responsible parent, I support those. However, I’ve learned over time that many people use parenting and personal responsibility to see a problem not directly impacting them, wipe their hands and say “I don’t have anything to do with that.” When looking at our current surging homicide rate, it’s easy but naive to simply point at those offending and their parents. Be clear, when I work with folks who have committed violence, I push them to focus on their role, but we all have personal responsibility in stopping violence.
While we need federal common-sense gun laws, our state representatives have a responsibility to appropriately fund public education while expanding Medicaid so that young people have basic chances at growing into healthy adults.
Our school district has a responsibility to equitably fund and staff our schools in a way that promotes socio-emotional health and attacks opportunity gaps versus solidifying them.
Our city and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) have a responsibility to effectively engage directly impacted and engaged advocates in appropriately addressing housing with transparent criteria for success.
Our county has a responsibility to continue challenging and engaging our housing crisis while working with the city on equitable economic development including living wages.
Our banks have responsibilities to atone for racially disproportionate housing practices that preyed upon and economically harmed our most vulnerable communities during the economic downturn.
Our business community has a responsibility to see Charlotte as more than an ATM or pit stop until greater tax incentives show up elsewhere. Funders, nonprofits, and grassroots have a responsibility to work better in the sandbox with funders being willing to take more bottom up chances.
Our churches and citizens at large have a responsibility to stop looking at folks as “these people” and “this generation” and instead recognize folks as “our people” to be heard and understood before being challenged.
We have personal responsibility to better integrate folks into housing, employment, and living after incarceration and military service while teaching coping and conflict resolution skills early to reduce violent responses.
I have personal responsibilities to balance my energy for Charlotte-Mecklenburg with that for my family, to help individuals with various life challenges while highlighting pervasive systemic issues, and finally to use my voice as well as to uplift voices of those who are heard less.
In addressing the opioid epidemic, folks don’t cavalierly quip about parenting and personal responsibility. So why with our gun violence epidemic? What’s your role? I’m finding mine.