Erie County Bar Association President Hugh M. Russ III, Esq., is to be commended for his public advocacy addressing “white privilege.” His further pledge to actually do something and convene a forum on the topic should be emulated by other community leaders. The Buffalo News’ Rod Watson also is to be credited for bringing such, at times uncomfortable topics, to our attention. His columns concerning Russ and the University at Buffalo Urban Studies “The Harder We Run” are two sides of the same coin.
As a former family court judge and Buffalo school board member I was confronted daily with these complex, and dynamic social issues. I knew that I too had different life experiences, simply because of the color of my skin. Juvenile justice, limited educational resources, school to prison pipeline, mental health, substance abuse, unemployment and poverty are all ingredients in this social stew. Complex and dynamic community responses are required.
Yet, there are resources and foundations upon which we can build. Watson points to the 2016 Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable Report and the recent UB Urban Studies study. These document where we are and where we can go.
Data driven, measurable goals and benchmarks on issues ranging from employment, education, housing and home ownership, segregation, financial resources and alike, should be agreed upon. Periodic results need to be publicized. Accountability for community and political leaders should be demanded. Public discussions and conversations need to be made as an ongoing awareness. What will the Greater Buffalo Community of 2025, 2030 and beyond be? As the old saying goes, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”