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Monday, January 08, 2007

Response from Don Samuels to My Email

It took close to a month, and he wrote to "Sally"... even though I sent him an email from "Eva Young".

from Samuels, Don H
to Eva Young
date Jan 7, 2007 11:26 PM
subject FW: Role of libraries in Minneapolis

Hi Sally,

Believe it or not, I have great respect in the public library system. As I said in the council meeting, I still remember my first “big” book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I borrowed from the bookmobile that stopped three blocks from my home in a community too poor to have its own branch. Ironically, it was my first intimate introduction to American life.

I also worked my first job at the main library of the Jamaica Library Service. Today, that country of 2.5 million now has 1,600 homicides every year because the leadership continues to undervalue the humanity of huge segments of the population.

In any event, the statement I think you refer to was made, not at the council, but to a reporter, Terry Collins, who asked how I justified spending so much additional funds on public safety when libraries are closing.

While my answer seems glib, be assured, it comes from a place of deep thought, reflection and frustration. I have seen annual reports of the dire academic failure of the kids of my community, yet I have never heard the outcry in response similar to what comes from the closing of a single library. And yet, these young people grow up to have the next generation of failures before they are adults and the males go to jail at a rate of 60%, their incarceration costing us each annually, the salary of a librarian or a teacher.

These young men occupy our corners terrorizing their peers and others, heading to the store, to school or to the library. They make the carrying of a library book a sign of cultural betrayal.

Sally, I know these guys, they are scary and annually, they become more brutal. It makes me anxious that we allow them to continue unabated. We are callous as a community, considering pathology to be normal for a whole segment of our youth. And I do not simply blame the white community or the political leadership of the community. This decline has been in process for a generation and ALL of us have responded feebly. The youth sense their lack of worth in our response both to their endangerment and their social pathology. Corrective and preventive methods of intervention MUST become our top priority. It is the only civilized thing to do.

So when a reporter poses a question that suggests public safety and its accompanying social significance might be sacrificed for libraries, a terse retort hardly reflects the bizarre condition of our community.

And by the way, I have heard of the destructive behavior of so many unsupervised African American young people after school at North Memorial, prior to its closing. And I am very aware that a bizarre disproportion of the kids hungrily consuming the after school opportunities there are children of immigrants. America and Minnesota must begin to come to grips with our inability to fix the pathologies we created in the descendants of families who have been with us for centuries and not continue to look for redemption from the children of families nurtured in other distant cultures.

This is at the heart of our refusal to deal holistically with the crime problem. It has become an African American problem and historically, African Americans are allowed to rot intellectually, spiritually and occupationally. Until this changes, a thousand libraries cannot prevent the eclipsing of our national economy within 4 decades by China, India and Argentina. We will be dragged down by the repercussions of our own neglect.

Sorry if this is a downer. I am not a prophet, but on this issue, I see the future clearly.

Don Samuels
Minneapolis City Council
Fifth Ward
(612) 673-2205

I'll fisk this letter later this week.