Thursday, June 12, 2014
Ginny Chadwick wants to ban alcohol at the only park in Columbia, MO's black neighborhood
It hasn’t taken long for Ginny Chadwick, Columbia, MO councilwoman representing the 1st Ward, to prove she’s out of touch with the black people who live in her district. Chadwick is set on leading efforts to ban alcohol at Douglass Park.
Black folks in Columbia, we call it COMO, consider Douglass Park one of the few places to gather in a way that reflects our rich cultural particularity. It’s the one place black people can chill, be real, put some meat on a grill, pull out the side dishes, talk trash, shoot hoops, listen to some R&B, and, for better and for worse, drink some beer and liquor.
The truth be told It’s the only spot within a city designed to keep blacks in their proper place. It feels intentional at times. Yes, Douglass Park is like other parks in the "hood" across the nation. It’s a spot that has garnered a reputation because of the people who go there.
The truth is covered by the fiction, and that fiction is rooted in fear. That fear is molded by ignorance, and that stupidity is supported by an unwillingness to jump outside the comfort zone. Chadwick, and anyone willing to drink the unspiked Kool-Aid, is building public policy based on a mound of assumptions.
She needs to check herself before taking the big gulp.
Even worse than her misguided crusade to ban drinking at Douglass Park, is her lack of respect for the man who was on the ballot against her. Chadwick’s bold indifference for Tyree Byndom’s input may be a sign that she lacks the ability to comprehend, or simply doesn’t care about the people begging to be treated with respect.
“The Blacks in the 1st Ward have one social space that they go, and that is Douglass Park. They don't feel wanted or culturally accepted most other locations,” Byndom wrote in a message he reposted on Facebook. “If I hear that this is an effort that you are actually going to go through with, I want you to know that you will have major opposition from me and my allies.”
Byndom’s message was simple – don’t go there. To her credit, Chadwick didn’t deny her plan to ban drinking at Douglass Park.
“Thanks for your input Tyree. Yes, I am working to make Douglas alcohol free,” Chadwick wrote.
“Cool. Get ready for a fight,” Byndom responded.
“Didn't take the job because I wasn't up for fights. Change is a struggle, especially towards public health issues,” Chadwick said.
“That's fine. Be well. See you on the battlefield,” Byndom said.
You have to respect a woman on a crusade, but what is Chadwick thinking? Is she willing to disregard the opinion of a person with one ear to the ground? Is she completely insensitive to the concerns of those who frequent Douglass Park? Has she formed an opinion based on her view from her car as she drives by the park?
There are two problems with Chadwick’s push, and both reflect a deeper issue related to how race and racist assumption impact public policy.
The issue isn’t banning drinking in a city park. There is merit to enforcing that policy. The problem is with limiting the ban to the only park supported by black people. Forming a unique policy for Douglass Park is at the core racist. It targets a set population in a way that stereotypes them as being predisposed to alcoholism and illicit behavior caused by excessive drinking.
Second, and even more incommodious than the first, is Chadwick’s unwillingness to press Byndom to share his concerns. She cites her position without persuading Byndom to state his case. She fails to ask him to explain his opposition. She simply states her position, and willingness to go to battle.
It’s this type of insensitivity that I remember about COMO before leaving close to 30 years ago. I’m told that things have changed, but Chadwick reminds me of why it was easy to leave with no desire to come back home.
If you’re against drinking in city parks, ban it at all parks. You simply can’t go after the park where the black citizens spend their time. If you do decide to ban drinking at that park, show some sensitivity toward those who oppose your position. Listen to the citizens you represent.
Chadwick’s refusal to listen is striking one of those bad nerves. I plan to call her soon to give her a chance to respond. I’ve decided to write this first to introduce her to me and my work. Be warned. You might think that’s the way business is handled in COMO. If that’s true, take some notes.
Take some time to listen before you go on the battlefield.
You don’t want this battle.