The Texas Observer JUNE 10, 1966 A Journal of Free Voices A Window to The South 25c To Work With The Poor San Antonio A sociologist of the poor, working now in organizing poor neighborhoods; a social worker, himself just bridging the gap between the poor and the rest of us; a gang worker, running with, and trying to change. the gangs of boys on San Antonio’s West Sidethese are three men, trying three different ways to help. They work, in their jobs, on ignorance, illness, overcrowding, dirt, clap-trap housing, and Bill Hale is the associate director of the Methodists’ Wesley Youth Project in San Antonio. A slight man of 30 years, he was born in Cleveland, moved to the slums of Pittsburgh, got tuberculosis, and was sent, in 1940, to live with his grandparents in Amarillo to recover. He attended Texas Tech three years, then received his bachelor’s degree in sociology at Trinity University in San Antonio and his masters in sociology from Our Lady of the Lake College here. His thesis on his masters degree, he admits with a grin, was entitled, “The application of the group work method in re-directing behavior patterns of hard-toreach adolescents.” “The Negroes have a total commitment to changing the social conditions in which they find themselves,” he said. “With Mexican-Americans there’s a real diff.rence of opinion as to how to go about changing the conditions. There is some resistance on the part of certain affluent MexicanAmericans whether to really look at the Mexican-American poor, because as long as the Mexican-American poor isn’t looked at, he doesn’t find himself identified with the Mexican-American poor.” Social protests such as sit-ins and boycotts, customary in the Negro movement, are not lower-class methods of protest, Hale said. “Well-organized, well-planned, evaluated, peaceful demonstrations are really middle-class kinds of social action. The riots at Watts, the riots at Harlem crime. They are not the poor ; they have knowledge, they are self-conscious and socially conscious, and they are not poor. But to the extent they can, they feel with the poor, and see things their way. To talk with these three men is to get glimpses, sometimes blinding glimpses, into those places of despair, apathy, denial, and desperation, those lower depths the better off American calls “the poor” and knows nothing about. that’s lower-class social action.” Crime in the ghettoes, then, is social action? “Yes, it’s social action,” he said. “A violent gang can be a social action, a resistance, an open resistance, to status quo social conditions. “The Negro is an active-aggressive. The Mexican-American is a passive-aggressive. I think it’s cultural. It’s based on a set of cultural values and norms.” MexicanAmerican poor are more passive, more apathetic? “I think passive is the best word. “A lot of compensation goes on. The Negro compensates for his situation by a lot of aggressive acting-out. The MexicanAmerican really compensates by withdrawal.” The Mexican-American gangs on the West Side, which numbered, in one recent count, 65, “don’t fight the Anglo. They fight each other, over territory, over girls, but mostly they fight over a personal affront against a fellow gang memberan insult, an action of some kind. The Mexican-American is a very personal kind of person.” The Wesley Youth Project, working on delinquency and the youth gangs, has decided that the thing to do to try to change the behavior of youth gangs is to work in the poor neighborhoods to equip the neighborhoods themselves to cope with the gangs and to negotiate with the community at large. “There are five or six major social systems” in a city like San Antonio, Hale saidgovernment, education, employment, the economic-consumer system, social welfare, and the legal-judicial system. “If a poor neighborhood can deal effectively with those six systems, it can have an impact on its own conditions. We organize neighborhoods.” Presently Wesley has projects going in Colima, a slum on the near South Side, and at Columbia Heights, on the far South Side. Saul Alinsky’s work “stimulates confrontations with the social system and organizes people around issues. You can expect the system to react defensively.” But conflict is intermittent, not an end in itself, and Wesley, in its work, seeks negotiation to resolve it. “Many times those who are involved in raising the conflict are not the ones the social system will deal with in resolving the conflict.” Major social systems deal with each other and there are rules of the game, but “the lower class person is not even part of the game, so he doesn’t understand the rules.” Hale’s work is to help show neighborhood organizations his workers try to get started how to deal with the city’s social systems. He describes this work, lapsing into textbook sociology: “We’re talking about institutional change through negotiated orders between equals, and manipulation of social systems.” What good has this work done? One of Wesley’s two neighborhood groups has had three city councilmen out to talk things over; the other has had one. Most of the improvement in neighborhoods has been physical change street repair, street lights, a swimming pool built. \(But the pool, built in part by dcknated private funds from the H.E.B. Foundation, was built without a dressing room, and with a fee too high for families with many children. The illee has been dropped slightly, but paren s are still expected to send their children through the streets dressed in swimming suits, contrary to the values of Heights and Riverside community associations have representation on the city-wide war on poverty board. During the last two years, with the stimulus of war on poverty funds, the neighborhood associations have mushroomed in San Antonio, from three to perhaps 35 or 40. In the Colima area, with the leadership Teaching The Rules’
You May Also Like
The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.