Photo by Rachel Henning, UnSplash
Photo by Rachel Henning, UnSplash

Omaha’s  number one problem⁠—really America’s, if not the world’s⁠—is oppression.

Specifically oppression writ-large in our community by racism and systemic inequities. Omaha wants to promote our equity, diversity and inclusiveness. So we’d better get very real about our past, our history and the work we’re doing in the present to create the future we say we want.

This paper has spent no small part of its coverage telling the truths not told. If we’re going to build a community that is honest with ourselves in the 21st century, we have to find more of those truths. There is so much opportunity in that truth—not only the opportunity for reconciliation, but also the fairest, most informed community, a magnet for enlightened talent and the brightest hopes for Omaha’s tomorrow.

Both the large inequities and the small slights usually cut one way, against Black and communities of color, and against gender and sexual orientation. The small injustices pile on the large ones until justice itself is finally called to account. It is our time now to start settling up, and we need to keep it very real.

Justice is a fair shake, that all people are created equal and have inalienable rights. Where there is justice, there can be peace and prosperity. Where there is not, hope is lost. Conflict and poverty metastasize like a cancer.

For far too long a nation rooted in these core principles—justice and equity—has willfully turned away from the insidious application of power to deny them.

You can’t talk about racism and systemic inequities without talking about power.

Unchecked, it leads to oppression and entrenched privilege, but it also warps our smallest interactions across cultural and ethnic lines.

That we can have a reckoning is a very small measure of how long it’s taken and how hard we have to reflect on our own power. Self-reflection followed by grace is always our biggest challenge. Explore the discomfort, don’t get used to it. Work with that discomfort to find a real, deep peace that can build a legacy.

We all have a lot to learn. One thing that would be different as public policy is to be very mindful of our power. The ability to share it, to give it away has actually delivered some of the best successes within the community. Generosity is the mark of our ambition. Believe innately in the homegrown individuals and organizations in the community, and allow for a model that doesn’t push what power thinks are the best solutions. Instead elevate the hopes and dreams of those long denied it.  And even though there have been and will be many stumbles, that’s part of the work too. Restore your belief and reflection with every misstep, regardless of the fault.

Start with that trust and you’ll find more truth. The self-education and dialogue has reached a tipping point of critical mass and deeper range. This time change can happen, but we have to be open to a very wide range of ideas and partners.

It takes a village. The next generation is onto something here, and those who’ve been around for a while can’t deny it. Don’t be afraid of the revolution, be proud of its passion and intellect. Embrace it.

That creates justice and equity for everyone that is both durable and sustainable.

If you want some simple accountability on this path, consider these systemic metrics:

Longitudinal Self Checks. Where’s my power and how do I exercise it for those without? Make this a habit and we can build new systems. Change starts at the individual level.

Levels of investment. Where do dollars go for development, new business, infrastructure, education, youth services, to name just a few.

Public safety. How much do we spend on enforcement versus prevention? What are the costs for each? Police and prison budgets have soared as social services shrink and predatory companies exploit the poor.

Health. Basic health coverage can go a long way and is really the cornerstone. Without health, everything else is harder to reach. Delays on Medicaid expansion, almost entirely federally funded, are a big barrier.

We hope this issue builds on our previous work, the work happening in the community and helps propel our process forward. Many thanks to Guest Editor Beaufield Berry in assembling our community contributors and helping to guide this issue. As we’ve all heard from the family most stricken by grief in our hometown — PEACE.


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