Yesterday our Samaschool instructor Terrence Davenport called me from Dumas, a town on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River Delta. He was out of breath. He’d been showing around a film crew covering our work for a documentary, and as part of their visit Terrence took them to the local chamber of commerce.
The Chamber had just published some books on the history of Main Street. Terrence, a local history buff, asked if he might borrow the books to show the film crew. The older white lady behind the counter gave him a long look, and then, without smiling, told him coldly, “you’d better bring the books back, or we’ll tie a rope around your neck.”
Terrence is about the nicest person you’ll meet. He grew up in the Southern Baptist Church, high-fives everyone in town, and moved back to Dumas after getting his degree in Fayetteville in order to help his community.
Racism is the injustice that gets swept under the rug in our country. It makes it that much harder for Sama to do our work. How can we convince people to get motivated and seek projects on Internet-based platforms when their personal histories include so much overt discrimination that they’ve lost hope? When they’ve been paid 30% less for the same job at the local furniture store, or told to be careful after dark?
Two of our students, for example, got great job offers as virtual call center agents. But these were canceled when they discovered that they can’t get sufficient bandwidth at home to meet the call center requirements. The ISPs simply don’t serve rural communities with the same products, cutting them off from desperately needed income.
High-speed connectivity, like clean water, is a basic human need in the twenty-first century. There’s no excuse for the richest country in the world to deny its poorest citizens what they need most: a chance to connect.