Keith Eric Benson: Pride in Being a Skeptic

What you’ll read below was originally a comment by Keith Eric Benson at Steve Danley’s Local Knowledge Blog, replying to a comment he found odious in a Courier Post editorial. Hat tip to Steve for throwing light on Keith’s words, and to Camden NAACP, which sent the link to their list. Keith is a Camden resident, teacher at Camden High, frequent contributor to Steve’s blog, and a doctoral candidate in the Education, Culture and Society program at Rutgers Graduate School of Education. He is also an activist on behalf of his students. Promoted by Rosi.

The last comment [in this Courier Post editorial -ed] directed at “skeptics” to “shut up and get out of the way”, in my eyes, was so out of line. I think the labeling of people who have legitimate concerns and issues with this contemporary neoliberal directed Camden, and where its headed, as “skeptics” is demeaning and dismissive.

After all, people who being referred to as “skeptics” are the people who live here, and fundamentally are simply asking for the same civic rights and democratic respect that are afforded those in neighboring municipalities.

As a “skeptic” myself, I have a problem when the beneficiaries of good public and private jobs within this 8 square mile city of 97% percent minorities don’t remotely look like the people who reside here. Am skeptical for pointing that out? Am I skeptical when I point out that I can go WEEKS without seeing a black police officer on this newly created County Police Department? Or that I don’t recognize anyone of them as current Camden residents? Am I a “skeptic” when I point out research shows charters schools largely do NO better than traditional public schools? Am I skeptical that every time Gov. Christie comes here to say how much he cares about Camden he has a perimeter set up so that NO resident who is NOT connected to the Norcross machine goes anywhere near him to voice out concerns? Am I skeptic when I get upset that our local reporters ask NO follow-up questions and are not themselves the skeptical gatekeepers of public knowledge they are supposed to be but instead prefer to be the echo chamber for those with power?

I’m concerned that whenever the community wants to be included in the direction of the city, we are excluded and ignored. Further I am very skeptical when ALL of those in elected positions charged with representing residents like me, and my neighbors, all take the same marching orders from 1 or 2 men with the last name NORCROSS.

To dismiss people who find those realities truthful and distasteful, that truly want to see the city move in a better direction THE RIGHT WAY, as “skeptics” or my favorite “naysayers” only makes those hurling those labels part of the oppression us “skeptics” find so disconcerting. Our local media really has to do a MUCH BETTER understanding the opposing viewpoints held by us “skeptics” before telling us to “shut up and move out of the way.” I would venture to say that line would NEVER be directed to white people with money in Voorhees or Cherry Hill, or am I being too skeptical?

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

                                                  – Malcolm X

Comments (3)

  1. keepitreal

    I also found the Courier Post editorial to be offensive. It reminded me of the big time editors in the movie “Mr. Smith goes to Washington”. I know that newspapers need advertisers, but if they are not going to try to be fair and ethical, what is the point?  

  2. firstamend07

    I agree with all your comments and then you introduce race…..that is weak and desperate.

    It is our duty to question. Questioning comes from all sides though.

    You have the right to ask questions and others have the right to question you.

    Nothing has ever been accomplished without some discussion.


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