It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas as the veil of Ashland being Southern Oregon’s liberal monument has finally been lifted. The Black leaders of the Rogue Valley realize that this great reveal is a bitter-sweet and cheap gift to spit on our humanity. There’s a Black mother that will be without her son this holiday season and the Black caucus has looked at Ashland as not a monument of liberal compliance but an altar because we are being sacrificed to save the hype. As a mother, I languish at the thought of being jabbed with the empty sentiment of thoughts and prayers from Christians that discern between homeless and transient. They reserve this special time of year to extend their humanity and yuletide cheer only if you fit their narrative of less fortunate. This article is about the Christian crusade of the white knight in Southern Oregon during the holidays.
This past summer Southern Oregon was hit hard by the sick thrills of pyromaniacs and today our scars are still healing. The community came together and organized donation centers at the churches but then tent city happened. Fires leaving nothing but fields of devastation where houses once stood left no room for benevolence for those that had tents before the fact. The goodwill of the white knight when helping the Latinx community comes in the form of passive judgement. A brown family seeking aid at times of great loss is still viewed as selfish greed in the eyes of our white knight. The prejudice of the white knight rears its ugly head when a white person has lost their tent in the fire, versus losing a house. It’s clear to me that the racism and classism in this community manifests itself under the guise of Christian morale. Whenever the local news outlets make a post on their social media pages, that’s typically where you will find the sheer hypocrisy of it all. The life of an addict, criminal, or transient are interchangeable in that they are the outcasts of this society. God forbid if you were impacted by the fires while trans or pagan because there are heavy indoctrinating rules that some shelters have here in the Rogue Valley. In times of desperation it only makes sense to make converting to Christianity a requirement when you're in need shelter. The indifference of our Christian neighbors isolates so many and this is the normal that some of our neighbors want to reinforce because they feel it's the righteous way of life.
It’s interesting how the media in the Rogue Valley depicts homelessness as the shortcomings of individuals but never a rigged system that generates income for Southern Oregon. According to the previous Department of Corrections Deputy Director Benjamin de Haan, “Without inmate labor, we couldn’t run the institutions. We’re obviously between a rock and a hard place.”(prisonlegalnews.org) Here in Oregon the DOC uses inmates to fight fires, restore trails, and of course de-litter highways, but are they being paid an equitable wage? Well for one thing their “pay” is based on a point system where you can earn as much as $1.25 per hour or $77 a month if your job is through Oregon Correctional Enterprises. OCE has 28 industry programs in 11 out of the 14 current prisons in the state. The job shortages are a major problem because OCE jobs employ just 1,419 inmates so where is the equity? If you think that Medford, OR for example doesn’t criminalize homelessness then you must have missed the tent city clean sweep. People who have the comfort of knowing where they’re going to sleep, often say these pariahs deserve to be cast out of the public eye like a skeleton in a closet. As the air gets colder and survival proves to be as bitter as a 2 a.m. windchill, our homeless youth are at high risk in an area that says “All Lives Matter”. The media depicts an alternate reality where teens are running away because they don’t like structure. They see it as a young person’s taste for freedom, but as someone who has been homeless, it’s more of a quest for peace in a place of inner demons. I was lucky because I was placed in a group home originally for parenting teen girls but at the time I was 22. Their program was obviously designed for teens with or without drug problems and I was neither one. I was already a 22 year old with college credits and realistic goals but I was still treated like a teenager which was grossly demeaning.
The charity given by the white knight is often accompanied with the If it wasn’t for me being a good person you’d be on the street sentiment to reinforce the idea that the system works but we just don’t fit it. It’s difficult to feel a sense of gratitude as my character is being judged when these "charitable” folx have never walked a day in my shoes. How could this mostly white-led group home understand the full picture of my struggle? There aren’t even words to describe the alienating feeling of being a person of color in the wake of the crusade of the white knights.