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Who matters?

Commentary

Ray Jordan | 4/29/2013, 9:51 a.m. | Updated on 4/29/2013, 6:49 p.m.
Who matters? Who counts? Who is worthy? Who is important? These are arguably some of the most fundamental questions that ...
Dallas women affected by HIV/AIDS The Dallas Examiner

Commentary

The Dallas Examiner

Who matters? Who counts? Who is worthy? Who is important? These are arguably some of the most fundamental questions that any society can answer. Remarkably, I believe a nation’s answers to these questions can best be evaluated through the lens of its public policy. Who exactly has been socially constructed to be entitled and deserving of the care and comfort, respect and resources, a nation and thereby society has to offer? These are age-old questions that human civilization has grappled with throughout the centuries, and sadly these are questions that are still at the root of the societal paralysis preventing our communities from effectively addressing the worldwide HIV/AIDS pandemic that can be found in our own backyard. Therefore, the question remains, how do those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS challenge their own negatively constructed identity as those who don’t matter … or at least matter enough?

This is not the first time a group burdened with a negative social construction has been faced with the challenge of transforming that image in the public sphere. The end of the first half of the 20th century, arguably, found the United States at a pivotal crossroads. Emerging victorious from World War II, the nation was poised for global leadership and economic dominance while remaining a democratic archetype for the world. Whatever the strength of its military or the size of its coffers, its moral standing in the world, however, was being questioned. The construct of the American dream was being threatened, but not by foreign attacks or enemy combatants, on the contrary, by a quiet rumble being heard in small rural communities of the South.

In essence, who was going to challenge and ultimately change the wealthiest nation in the world, fortified by the greatest military power the world had ever known? Would it be presidents, popes or prime ministers? No, a preacher … backed by a church that consisted, mostly, of domestic servants, the poor and sometimes the illiterate. In short, the Black church that was overwhelmingly populated by the society’s second-class citizens would challenge the world’s superpower … and win! For me, that’s the beauty of the Civil Rights Movement. Simply, everyday people changed the world. Meaning the very idea of democracy that our country is praised for today was manifested by the “least of these” through an internationally heralded and church-centered struggle for civil and human rights that charted a new cartography of American public life, forever changed the meaning of democracy for the world, and permanently altered the way African Americans would be perceived through the eyes of policy and thereby society.

As we struggle against the ravenous effects of HIV/AIDS, particularly in the Black community, I believe it is incumbent upon our community to remember the lessons of our foreparents’ toppling of American apartheid. The social construction process is one through which values and meaning becomes attached to events, people, patterns of action or any other phenomena. Likewise, these values and meanings enable interpretations and provide rationales for action, positive or otherwise. However, what African Americans learned through their involvement in the Civil Rights Movement is that social movements have great potential to change socially constructed identities. Learning from the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement, we know that the Black church was undoubtedly at the heart of the movement. Hence, I believe the church’s involvement was invaluable for two reasons.