There are lots of positive things going on in poor/ and minority poor communities we never hear about. Somehow, in our society, we have mistakenly come to equate money and wealth with being good of character and values, and the poor as being bad, with no scruples, no character or having no value system in tact, and therefore deserve whatever negative image bestowed upon them.
There's no one person or incident, good or bad, that defines an entire group or class of people. The media in its own way has served to encourage and perpetuate such negative stereotypes. We often hear about all the negative things taking place in certain areas of the city, and only the good in others until something of such great magnitude takes place that it shocks the senses and can't be hidden or ignored.
There's nothing wrong with congratulating a young person who had to walk through the fire, so to speak, before coming out on the other side to see the light in order turn over a new leaf in his/her life. There's also nothing wrong with congratulating the athlete who can run, jump and make a touchdown at lightening speed. However, we are about so much more. There's also the intellectual and scholarly side we've grown to ignore. The young men and women who have always strive to do the right thing against all odds? Who never broke any laws, joined any alleged 'gangs' or sold drugs no matter how hard the struggle or their lives were.
There are individuals, though many no longer living in Chattanooga, who have gone on to do great scholarly things with their lives; who basically never got into any trouble. Who always set positive goals for themselves. They didn't all come from the so-called "better" neighborhoods or attend the "better" schools, even if such places of Utopia even exist. As there has always been a darker side to 'Eden' we may not always readily know or hear about. Many of those individuals came right from struggling communities where they were already targeted and flagged for failure, long before they had the opportunity to spread their wings. It's unfortunate that they often had to leave Chattanooga to fully realize their potential to accomplish good, and even great things with their lives.
There's the individual who will be working with a team in an effort to find a cure for stomach flu and other illnesses where cures remain elusive. Another worked in a field for decades on perfecting and troubleshooting night vision equipment and other high tech gear used by the military long before any of them became household names. Equipment now even used by many law enforcement agencies and other items and equipment we might find right in our own household. These individuals aren't and weren't the so-called 'best' Chattanooga has or had to offer. Neither were they athletes. At least not in the physical since, mentally/psychologically yes. Nor have or had they spent any time in any jails or prisons. Not that that's easy to avoid these days. Some even grew up in public housing and places others snub their noses and poked fun. They were considered straight from the bottom of the barrel of Chattanooga's communities. Their parents didn't receive the best education, and often neither did they. The communities they lived may have been communities many avoided. Most everything and many experiences they encountered told them they'd never amount to anything. But, in spite of it all, they rose above negative stereotypes and holes others dug for them to accomplish great and wonderful things with their lives. They've been instrumental in allowing us the joys and luxuries of being able to have and use things in our everyday lives we often take for granted.
It's both sad and comical when I read comments from people who basically know next to nothing about places they've never ventured into, yet they quickly make negative assumptions about people they know next to nothing about. It's also sad and comical when I read comments from people telling me that I live in a "predominantly" this or that ethnic/crime ridden community. Which couldn't be further from the truth. Usually these people live in a totally isolated world where most everyone will never venture outside their comfort zones. They're lazy and comfortable with allowing others to dictate what they see, rather than opening their eyes, ears and hearts to see for themselves. They might as well be living on another planet. They are cowards who hide behind a pretense of fear and suspicion to cover up their hatred of anyone and everyone who doesn't look like them or fit a certain standard or criteria. I find myself pitying them rather than wanting to be anything like them.
I'm blessed that my parents always gave my siblings and me the independence to explore, venture out, meet and get to know individuals from all walks of life no matter their class, race or social standing. In turn, we've passed those same qualities on down to our children and grandchildren. As my parents always instilled in my siblings and me, "Strangers are just friends we have yet to meet." We were all made richer primarily due to our parents' wisdom.
There is so much greatness all our young people have to offer. Regardless of where they come from. Greatness to offer, not only to us or our nation, but to the world. When we set out to purposely limit that, we limit ourselves. We shortchange our nation and the world. Instead of setting them up for persecution, failure and the disdain of others, we should be striving to fight and denounce those negative stereotypes that can remain and haunt us all for generations to come.