Dynamics of Power, Privilege, and Oppression
By Rickard Jean-Noel
According to the “Participatory Asset Mapping” in module 4, “community members are the experts of their lived experiences” and “they are resources and assets in their community as well as key informants”. This statement basically explains that the constituents of the community determine the assets and nonassets based on what is important to them, even if it is not considered to be an asset to us. An example of this would be a certain street in the neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn NY. To a drug dealer that block would be a huge asset because he generates commerce on that block, and he is building a steady revenue from his illegal endeavor’s. However, to someone else that might perceive this as a liability or nonasset might have an issue with the illegal sale of narcotics and crime in their neighborhood. This reason for this would be because as stated in the module slides that “assets are in objective and subjective resources”.
It is an unwritten fact that the following often holding most of the power, privilege, and is causing oppression in low-income communities would be the police, the gang members, the merchants, religious leaders, and the government agencies. The implications would be the high police presence, but the fact that there isn’t a lack of crime. The people of the community often feel that the police are there to only abuse the innocent and barely do anything regarding those that are commenting the crimes. There is an often distrust between the people of the community and the police. The gang members also have power because of the fear that they impose on the people and the terror that they cause. They are usually the ones oppressing the every day working civilian who is afraid to tell on them. The gang members are also often the one’s distributing illegal drugs as a way of commerce. The religious leaders exploit the people and take their money every week by selling the people hope, yet not doing anything in the community for the betterment of the people. The merchants often open store in this neighborhood, but do not live in the neighborhood. In this fashion, they can reap the benefits from the neighborhood, but they do not contribute to its development and do not have to deal with all the struggles of the community members. The government agencies and the lack of government assistance or the poor treatment received from the government is the result of the community being the way it is. It was the New York City House Authority that decided to put so many low-income housing projects in a small already poverty-stricken area, ultimately stacking thousands of people on top of each other creating a cesspool of poverty and crime.
The drug dealers would control the market of illegal drugs that are coming into the community and where they are sold and the price of which they are sold. If someone had a large number of drugs or was the main distributor of drugs in the community, they can affect the market, creating a shortage or flooding the market. Regarding the police, they can choose whether they respond to certain crimes in a certain amount of time. It was an old saying that goes that police respond faster to crime in more affluent neighborhoods yet take a long amount of time when responding in low-income neighborhoods. The merchants can raise the price of products as they like. If there is a demand then they can raise the price high, and because the people of the community have limited choices, they at times accept the outrageous prices, even if they are living in poverty. There is also a lack of healthy choices when it comes to food in low-income neighborhoods such as this one. The religious leaders have the option of opening the church or not. If there is an emergency, they can open the church as a shelter or keep it close and refuse to help. We saw a similar situation in the past with Joel Osteen. The government has the choice on whether to fix the large amount of housing projects in Brownsville Brooklyn. They also have the choice to provide government assistance to fix this neighborhood, the school, the roads, and other public areas and spaces.