Ihave always admired Rev. James Meeks’ zeal for helping Black people. However, there are aspects of the second phase of his group’s proposed boycott that I find to be very disturbing. And I have not heard anyone talking about it. On September
I have always admired Rev. James Meeks’ zeal for helping Black people. However, there are aspects of the second phase of his group’s proposed boycott that I find to be very disturbing. And I have not heard anyone talking about it.
On September 3-5, they want our children to attend ‘classes’ in the lobbies of places such as the Chicago Stock Exchange and Chase Bank. At a rally in the Loop, Rev. Meeks was quoted as saying, “I dare the business community to arrest our children and send them to jail because all they want is a quality education… If they won’t let us in (to their lobbies), we won’t go in, but I guess we’ll just sit on the sidewalk. That’s when we’ll protest. We’ll picket because then business will be showing their insensitivity to this crisis.”
We may all agree with getting better school funding, but it should bother us to see our children placed on the frontline, possibly against the police department, as was evident from Rev. Meeks’ personal ‘dare.’ Dr. Martin Luther King, and his ministers, never put children out front in matters of civil disobedience. Instead, Dr. King and other adults willingly accepted the arrests and the jail time for themselves. Perhaps the male ministers leading this venture should do likewise. It is certain that if anything happens to one of those children at the hands of a cop, even if by accident, all the ministers will be screaming bloody murder for decades. So, they would do well not to involve our youngsters in activities where unnecessary stress or stigma could befall them.
Besides, the children won’t be interloping into the lobbies of skyscrapers because of their own desire. The idea of sitting on germ-infested, cold, hard, marble or concrete floors—for four hours—is not their own! And, if our boys and girls “just sit on the sidewalk,” as Rev. Meeks said, then one couldn’t imagine them finding a filthier seat in too many other sections of our city. Aren’t they worth hauling in a sufficient number of tables and chairs for their physical and emotional comfort?
Further, the younger ones have a short attention span. They’ll need some breaks to use the bathroom or have a snack. What then? Will they be divided into groups to use the corporations’ public washrooms? Are the ministers going to buy all of them McDonald’s Happy Meals so they can eat lunch on the floor or sidewalk? Will the buildings’ security forces have a problem with all of that?
Additionally, Rev. Meeks’ army of retired teachers presumably are qualified but will know nothing about these students. That’s why they need to be where their year-long instructors, regular classmates, academic records and the teaching plans for their advancement are located. Even financially strapped schools have an established curriculum and lesson plan that is better geared toward their educational development than generic, makeshift ‘lessons’, which may not be of any value.
Our youth need their regular lunchrooms and bathrooms. They need to be among familiar faces, not a sea of unfamiliar people and personalities. Furthermore, our youngsters’ concentration will be distracted by the constant stares of thousands of strange, curious and, possibly, hostile passersby. Do we want them to be made into a spectacle? Will our darlings want to go back for a second and third day of such drama?
Finally, corporations are not obligated to finance public education. Our government is. Thus, Meeks’ individual desire for businessmen to help in “crafting a solution” may be regarded as totally irrelevant. Even if they personally are sensitive to our plight, their professional decisions must be based upon an overriding sensitivity to the wishes of stockholders and corporate bosses. That’s why clogging up their lobbies for three days will only antagonize them. They can’t be forced to contribute big bucks to the schools unless other, more powerful people agree. And, those other people are not likely to cower at coercive tactics that depend upon the use of our children.
It is my hope that this particular aspect of the boycott will be scrapped immediately or ignored by parents who see there is no point in turning their children over to such an endeavor. Our precious youth should not be used in such a reckless and cavalier fashion. They should not miss three days of legitimate school work to suffer such an uncomfortable and degrading experience.
Rev. Luther S. Hicks is an Attorney at Law.
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