Today I read a report by the Center for investigative reporting in conjunction with our local PBS station and SF Chronicle that talks about the inhumane treatment of the elderly and people with disabilites in the Richmond, California community. Less than 20 miles away from one of the most expensive cities in the country, is Richmond, a city who saw its golden age during WWII as the Rosie's worked the shipyards here on our side of the Bay, and boasts the motto, "City of Pride and Purpose".
Today, Richmond is synonymous with high crime, environmental injustice and educational disparity. It is home to Chevron and has the highest reintegration communities in the East Bay.
(the big purple blobs are population of "parolees" )
To me, Richmond is home. I grew up in this city.Through the work of the CIR I am now aware of something that is so hidden that even I did not know about the glaring injustice that I was about to read about in this report.
When I read the word "squalor" in the article, the word repeated itself in my mind. AHAH squalor! It bounced around with a tinge of guilt. Squalor, when we look at what it means to people who are disabled and the elderly in this community of Richmond, it extends beyond a mess. Here it means, mold. Mice. Insects. Urine. Dehumanization.
"Residents who end up in Richmond's public housing are predominantly old or African Americans with disabilities. More than three-quarters of them make less than 30 percent of Contra Costa County's median income, or $18,750 a year, according to HUD." (Amy Julia Harris)
The residents of the Hacienda and Nevin plaza have no choice. These residents are helpless and unheard. Their dignity removed— as one resident, who has a disability and cannot get into a tub on her own, cleanses herself out of the sink in her home. 90 days later when the city decided to spend the 40 bucks necessary to install the safety bar, she regained some of what she had lost. It is clear from this particular woman's experience that the calls for help are neglected. While the Richmond housing authority marks down that many of the complaints that are filed are resolved, the reality is that they are ignored. Contractors are paid, but the work is not done???!
At the same time the management, and authorities spend lavishly on dinners and travel, while mice fester in walls and broken gates betray the residents' security.
" Its executive director, Tim Jones, charged hundreds of dollars on meals in New York and Washington, including a roughly $400 meal at an upscale midtown Manhattan restaurant where a strip steak with truffle fries runs $41." (Amy Julia Harris)
The report, which I recommend you all read, details the extent of this issue in far greater detail than I can go into without just copy/pasting all of it.
http://cironline.org/reports/reside… (TW: some images can be disturbing to some)
I bring this up because in our continued conversation about institutionalized racism, I want us to gain hold of yet another example that extends beyond the high profile ways in which racism is displayed in the media. While the degrading way the residents of these housing projects live are glaringly obvious examples of institutionalized racism, these lives are mostly hidden or ignored. Most people who live in these conditions are not ones to discuss this openly, and so this report in imperative in the way we consider how this racism affects those who have no voice or no ear to listen to them. The way that people of color are treated in this country is really one of the saddest realities that I can think of in the context of American life. There is some light at the end of this, as the feds are threatening to step in, if major improvements do not occur. The light is dim, but my hope is that there will be justice, at the very least to give the residents a sense of actual security in the dangerous neighborhoods they find themselves in.
How do we resolve issues that are so engrained in this system?
For one, we talk about them. We listen to these reports and we do what we can in terms of service. The best way to help is to get involved and join the struggle. Volunteering a little talent, donating what you can, serving in any capacity, even just encouraging others to do so when you cannot do it yourself, helps. Making sure that the citizens of public housing for PWD and elderly, are not invisible is essential in this fight.