‘Why march through River Oaks’ in Houston, Texas, they ask? Because the Trayvon Martin case has awakened something within justice loving people as Emmitt Till’s murder did some 58 years ago. Critics of the recent march in River Oaks say ‘they (River Oaks) didn’t have anything to do with the death of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman’s acquittal’ in Florida. Wrong, dead wrong! The same corrupt judicial system that acquitted George Zimmerman after he racially profiled and murdered Trayvon Martin in Florida operates in same manner in the City of Houston, Harris County, and the Southern District of Texas in the Federal court system of the United States. If it looks like a duck…well you know the rest.
Nothing written herein is meant to negate or denigrate the great civic, philanthropic, and humanitarian contributions of the River Oaks community to our city, state, nation, or world. Without their generous support of the arts, education, poverty eradication, disaster relief, and good governance, this city would be worst than it is. However, the good takes care of itself; together we must correct the wrong. No amount of charity absolves those who choose to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the injustices taking place in a system that protects and benefits River Oaks. Honestly, can anyone name a candidate for any federal, state, county, or at large city elective office of both major parties that doesn’t seek and receive some financial support from River Oaks? Simply put, River Oaks funds many of our tormentors and upholds the institutions that mistreat us. How should we respond?
Not all, but too many, in River Oaks and other affluent communities in Houston have allowed themselves to fit the unfair stereotype of a sushi eating, Galleria shopping, Caramel Macchiato (hold the whip cream) drinking, jogging in the park, and walking the poodle down beautiful tree lined streets carefree people - while the police profile, beat, and kill us, the criminal courts railroads us, the civil courts rob us, and the family courts take our children unjustly. We imagine you enjoying life at the county club while your neighborhood captains of industry de-industrialized America sending our jobs overseas and your political operatives weakened our state and federal environmental laws thereby destroying the once pristine Texas environment. Bond referendums notwithstanding, state and county government has built more prisons and jails in Texas than neighborhood public schools with your permission. You have also “gamed” the tax system to escape paying a fairer share of taxes despite having the privilege of living in the most prosperous state and nation on earth. Is this fair?
River Oaks, why did you sit back and watch Wall Street gut our 401K’s, home equity, and pension funds while your wealth increased tenfold? Why have some of you sat silently while the American middle class was hollowed out as honest hardworking people toiled 40 or more hours a week without receiving a living wage, healthcare, and having to collect food stamps? Why when we have in Houston, Texas the greatest medical center in the world, do the poor have to sit at Ben-Taub for 5-6 hours to see a doctor? Why let the poor and working class people wait at 8,000 METRO bus stops without shelter in triple digit heat, cold, and rain while our transit agency’s “General Mobility Fund” is siphoned off by cities and the county for non transportation purposes and so that you can drive your fine automobiles? Is this neighborly?
Why is River Oaks seemly indifferent to the rising cost of higher education in Texas and the lack of jobs waiting for poor and blue collar children after getting a degree and accumulating a mountain of debt? Did you know that poor children with better grades than the less intelligent sons or daughters of River Oaks have less of a chance of finishing college and receiving a job? We thought Houston was a meritocracy? Why no outcry as the Voters Rights Act of 1965 is being gutted and voter suppression laws are passed without so much as an editorial or rally on your part? Your silence on these issues is deafening and borders on immorality. Should we remain silent just because you choose to?
Do you know why, despite the dire predictions of the socialist and revolutionary communist in the United States, this country has yet to devolve into apocalyptic class conflict? It’s because through both economic depression and recession there has been a tacit agreement between the rich and the poor that is as follows: If the rich will use their capital to create decent paying jobs, keep open the pathway to the middle class prosperity in the form of consumption with reasonable access to credit, then, the poor will allow the rich to collect large bonuses and live “the American Dream” without disturbing their peace. That’s the deal - and you who pull the strings, not government, broke it. Now, fix it!
The glue that held our society together is now seen as a mere illusion of inclusion, which is: if the poor worked hard, played by “the rules,” offered their sons and daughters to fight, bleed, and die in foreign wars to defend American “freedom,” and pursued a “good education,” then they too would be treated fairly by “the system” and have their bite at the apple of prosperity. This particular line of thought has been sold to two generations of Black people in America for the last 50 years. Although some have done well, the condition of the masses of Black people and the poor has gotten worse. This cannot be laid at the foot of River Oaks or anyone else. Our problem is disunity, distrust, allowing River Oaks and downtown to fund our politicians’ coffers, and our refusal to pool our own immense economic resources to create jobs and decent neighborhoods for ourselves. Do for self and stop blaming rich white people for that we can and must do for ourselves. This is our challenge, we must correct the wrong. Pharaoh has let us go; it’s time for us to let him go!
Now back to River Oaks! Hear us -we don’t want anybody to give us anything, just open up the door, we can get it ourselves. We are not marching in River Oaks and elsewhere for a new government program, a hand out, your sympathy, or out of envy over your prosperity. We are marching for JUSTICE and restoration of the tacit agreement between the rich and the poor with an added enforcement clause. That clause reads: “If there is no justice, there will be no peace or business as usual in the City of Houston.” This is not a threat-it’s a solemn oath. Oh, by the way, please stop wasting your time and money buying guns at gun shows, pressuring politicians, law enforcement, and so called “respectable” Black leaders in our community to do something about “those people.” There is nothing in the universe that can stop an idea whose time has come and a people backed by God who are determined to bring that idea into fruition. It would be like trying to stop a tsunami with a Dixie Cup. It’s up to you River Oaks and Houston to join us as we seek life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness for ALL and justice for the Trayvon Martin’s of the Houston, Texas and the world.
Robert S. Muhammad is a Student Minister in Houston, Texas and serves as the Southwest Representative of the Nation of Islam. He is a radio talk show host, Urban Planner, and candidate for PhD in Urban Planning and Environmental Policy. He can be heard on KPFT 90.1 FM each Wednesdays at 3pm CST and followed on Twitter @dotsconnector