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Friday, February 3, 2012

Dr. Richard Jackson talks designing healthy communities through diversification with PBS' Tavis Smiley

Dr. Richard Jackson sits down with PBS talkshow host Tavis Smiley to discuss his new PBS series and companion book, Designing heathy Communities. Topics  discussed include combating obesity and type II diabetes and the reorganization of the economic structure of the average American neighborhood so as to be more welcoming of a diverse mix of income levels, talents and cultures as opposed to the current seeming gentrification between and within rich, poor and middle-class communities.

Dr. Jackson's comments come on the heels of months of talk about the 1% of wealthy Americans and their inordinate amount of control over the finances of the nation and also seems to readdress the tumult of 2011's Occupy Movement in which two sides seemed, as they do now, diametrically opposed. Namely, they seem to speak to either a sense of helplessness with regard to those speaking on behalf of the poor and equally a sense of annoyance on the part of those in the financial sector with one side saying, "Give us a break!" and the other shouting back snidely, "Get a job!" But where does the truth lie? Surely it is not say that those in big business can just stop what they're doing. But nor is it to say that those picketing and protesting can simply go back to the status quo when they feel that status quo is broken.

Could Dr. Jackson's idea of instituting a collective restructuring of America's neighborhoods work? Is it possible for someone who makes $20,000 a year to live next to someone who makes $50,000 a year or someone who makes $1 million a year to live next to someone who makes $80,000 a year?

I've often asked myself if I won the lottery, not only what I would do with the money, but also but where would I live? Would I have to move to  a more affluent neighborhood? Would I even want to do that? Would I have to hide my wealth for the sake of maintaining friendships with middle-class neighbors and thus, would it force me to move?

The old adage that money changes people comes to mind and I can't help but see an obvious, even self-evident truth in that statement. Because I see in the news, the media and even everyday social interactions--how separate we make ourselves from others: the poor people live here, the rich there, Blacks here, Whites there, etc. I see on Facebook how so many people tend to 'friend" mostly people of their own culture or background in greater numbers than those who do otherwise. But on the other hand, I see in  places like New York City and San Francisco a particular embracing of cultural mixing that just seems natural to those who choose to accept it and then I think to myself, "Why can't there be more of this? "Why can't this be easier to do?"

There is a Hindu proverb that says that when I can see myself in another, I cease to have enemies. And of course we in the West know the Judeo-Christian ethic of "Love your neighbor as yourself." I can only think that this basic law of humanity would be far easier to accomplish if we embrace the idea of having people of diverse incomes, ethnicities and cultures living together in close quarters--because while we tend to fear that which we don't know or understand, we tend to embrace that which we do know and understand; how much harder would it be to be prejudiced against or to have a prejudice against someone if we knew that person as the person who lives next to us, with whom we share our food, our parties and our lives? It is clearly something consider.

Until next time… may you live in peace with your neighbor and, as always, may you roll on!

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