Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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December 5, 2014

Sullivan’s Salvos     12/9/14

In this edition:

*Reader Feedback
*White Privilege
*City of Literature
*Did You Know?

*Reader Feedback
         I write Salvos every week. There is really no such thing as a “typical” week, but I probably average 5-10 responses per edition. Sometimes readers agree with me, and sometimes they disagree. Then there are these…

         I got a handwritten response in the mail on Tuesday, December 2nd, and I felt it was worth sharing. I have copied it in quotes verbatim below, including any errors in capitalization, spelling or punctuation.

         “Hello- read you Sullivan’s Salvos a while ago. You obviously have no idea what is going on in IC. People like you are turning IC into ghetto.
If you think we need a new jail, put a fence around broadway. Move some of this black trash into your house, or Karen Kubbys.
Do you know the caseys in SE Iowa City was robbed before it was even open?
         Wait until they break into your house.”

         The letter was unsigned. The return address area of the envelope read, “no return address for fear of reprisal from heroin crazed negroes”

         Yeah. It is rare, but I have received letters like this before. Sometimes they are more personal – this writer appears to know nothing about my kids.

         So why do I share this? Because the public needs to know what goes on in our county. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. What’s more, people need to understand that silence can be deafening. We must not be afraid to call for diversity in our schools, neighborhoods, and places of employment. If we don’t, the type of fear demonstrated in the letter wins out.

         At last Thursday’s Board meeting, I replaced my nameplate with a sign that said, “Black lives matter!” In the big scheme of things, this action does not amount to much. But it does clearly state my concern.

         If you share my concerns, I urge you to do something this week that demonstrates your feelings. If you feel differently than I, say that. And if you are going to write me with your opinions, please have the guts to sign your name.

*White Privilege
         The verdict in Ferguson, Missouri has resulted in many well-meaning experts explaining the idea of “white privilege” to the masses. This is not working particularly well, and I think I know why.

         First, a bit of background: According to Wikipedia, white privilege is a term for societal privileges that benefit white people beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. These privileges are unearned and are distributed based on values of the dominant group.

         So for starters, we have a wordy definition. In short, it means whites enjoy certain advantages just for being white. I think examples help.

One major example is that police stop blacks at much higher percentages than whites. (This is often referred to as “driving while black”.) Black people get followed around in stores more frequently than do whites. Black children end up in special ed and “behavioral” classrooms in much higher percentages than whites. Even little things like the color of “flesh colored” band-aids serve to illustrate the point. There are many other examples related to criminal justice, passing wealth through generations, employment, academia, housing, and virtually every other aspect of our lives.

         Yet many people (mostly white) deny that white privilege even exists. Here is where my theory comes into play.

         I think many people are hurting in our world. Instead of sharing in the economic gains of the past 6 years, they rightfully feel they have lost ground. The American Dream – home ownership, two cars, three weeks vacation, free health insurance, putting the kids through college, secure retirement at 65, a little money “just in case” – that life no longer exists for most Americans.

         So try telling these folks they are “privileged”. They certainly do not FEEL privileged – far from it! They live lives full of stress every day. How can that possibly be a life of “privilege”?

         And when we feel this way, we look for someone to blame. Unfortunately, instead of looking toward the 1% that run things, we tend to blame folks who look or speak differently than us.

         Perhaps this very real phenomenon of white privilege needs a new name. Because struggling whites resent being told they are “privileged” – even when it is true.

         I did some searching, and I am not the first person to have these thoughts. Here are a few excellent reads:


         When resources are scarce, people tend to view others as the competition – “we” becomes “us and them.” Obviously, that type of divisiveness works wonders for the 1%. It is a simple, time-honored strategy – divide and conquer. I sincerely hope that we can build a coalition that understands we must all work together to seize power from the 1%.

*City of Literature
         Iowa City was bestowed with an honor in 2008 that does not generate the civic pride it should. In November of that year, Iowa City was designated as a “United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) City of Literature.” Iowa City was only the third city in the world to receive such a designation.

In response to this prestigious award, a 501C.3 nonprofit organization was formed to assist in maintaining and building upon these literary traditions. Known as the City of Literature, this organization has grown to fill an important niche in the cultural affairs of our area. I have had the distinct privilege of serving on the City of Literature Board since its’ inception.

         Unfortunately, I am going off that Board as of January. It has really been cool to be involved in this endeavor. I simply love living in a place where – as local poet Marvin Bell said so well – “words have dirt on their shoes.”

         I urge you to visit the City of Literature website at Find something that interests you, and get involved. Thank you, City of Literature – it has been a blast!

*DID YOU KNOW?  Johnson County is about 6% Asian, 6% Hispanic, and 6% African American. (Source: US Census Bureau.)

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

"Sullivan’s Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

These messages come solely from Rod Sullivan, and neither represents the viewpoints of the whole Board of Supervisors nor those of groups or individuals otherwise mentioned.

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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