Oblivious American

Oblivious American

This is a letter I wrote to our local newspaper in 2019. I include it now since it relates directly to the title of my memoir.


Being somewhat aware of many of the issues surrounding the current crisis associated with the Rochester City Schools, I applaud the Democrat and Chronicle’s call for a state of emergency (2.10.19 D&C editorial). However, after so many decades of overall Community neglect regarding our children in these schools (~25,000 currently), I asked myself the question why it took so long to come to this point in making this declaration?

The answer unfortunately I believe lies in the inarguable fact that individuals and institutions within this so-called “Community” of Monroe live in parallel universes that are deeply entrenched; e.g. city vs. suburbs and white vs. black/ “other”. I would go as far as to label this other universe “Oblivion”: the state of being unaware or unconscious of what is happening and inhabited by the “Oblivious”: those not aware, conscious, or concerned about what is happening.

What does this type of world look like in thoughts, words, and deeds? Consider the following terms and draw your own conclusions: ghetto/inner city/thug/ ”I don’t see color”/acting black/sketchy/ “playing the race card”/”but where are you really from?”/illegal alien/black racism/reverse discrimination/means test/welfare/food stamps/war on drugs/stop and frisk/single mothers/take our country back/uppity/ethnic, exotic, urban/them; those people/well-spoken. A test of anyone’s degree of living in the universe of Oblivion is if most/all of these terms are considered non-controversial or non-offensive to the majority of Blacks/ ”Other”.

So what universe, or type of place do we want to be engaged with as individuals, the community, or institutionally when considering the requirements necessary with a state of emergency for our city schools … Oblivion or Consciousness? The choice I believe is obvious.

A final thought and quote from the famous Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “Few are guilty, but all are responsible”. If we all take responsibility in our own unique ways with our God given talents, what appears to be intractable or impossible in correcting the sins inflicted upon our 25,000 City children over the past several decades can be corrected with responsible consciousness.

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