Protesters march through Hamilton Saturday. 

In Part I of this Op-Ed, I mentioned the need to do a local and global inspection in order to define where we are today. As we examine our struggle with the plague of racism, our observations must include data and discernment, but without a judgmental spirit. When our judgments are wrong, our decisions become dangerous. For example, our nation must immediately stop seeing all white police officers as racist and all Black men as criminal.

We are all guilty of jumping to conclusions when the news hits our screen. I was saddened to hear of the death of Chadwick Boseman, the actor that played Black Panther. But my heart ached more when I heard the story of a seven-year-old child that asked his parent if Black Panther was shot by police when he heard the news. Even a child can identify a common problem.

In addition to our national crisis with police brutality, this past weekend the twenty-eighth homicide of the year took place in Trenton. This is our world in 2020 plus a global pandemic.

Where do we go from here? During these critical and sensitive times, there are many people that don’t know what to do and how to respond. Some are afraid to speak, and others are fearful of being attacked while trying to gain clarity. We can’t stay where we are. We must do better. We all must do our part, whether large or small. We are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Doing nothing will change nothing.

Let me humbly offer a recommendation to move us forward. Here it is. Are you ready?

I believe the healing and help we need right now starts with good ole communication. We need to talk. Healthy conversation can go a long way.

I know this concept may seem foreign in our day as people text each other while sitting in the same room together and as many people find it easier to put up a social media post or status rather than look a person straight in the eye and talk. We would rather have the power to block and delete how others feel than talk it out to gain understanding and move toward positive solutions.

Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to congress and the first Black person to run for a major party presidential nomination, held this type of conversation in 1972 with Alabama Governor George Wallace, one of the most vitriolic segregationists of his day. The gesture attracted widespread media attention and puzzled, to say the least, those who had followed Wallace’s career.

When Jesse Jackson was running for president in 1987, he also met with Wallace and said that leaders need to ‘move from the battleground to common ground and to have open and honest dialogue.’

In the Bible, even Jesus talked to a Samaritan woman at a well when it was not an appropriate norm for a dark-skinned, Jewish male.

Since the death of George Floyd, I have been engaged with some unconventional dialogue in Hamilton myself. I have talked with gang members, police officers, liberal democrats, conservative republicans, militant activists, and even business owners caught up in racist encounters connected to their establishment.

Effective communication involves both speaking and listening. Talking to each other will accomplish much more than talking at each other or just posting about each other. Conversations will not be the end-all to our epidemic, but the best start or next step.

Here is an approach to our problem, that I call “The Purpose Beyond Protest Philosophy.” I would like to offer this for consideration to move our community and region forward.

It says this: From our local neighborhoods to the nations, there is a need for Inclusive Diversity that will be realized as we intentionally engage in necessary, even uncomfortable conversations that confront the issues of inequity.

This will ultimately lead to the correction of beliefs, policies, and practices that promote racism, or any form of bias, resulting in on-going, needed change in our community and world.

From a local perspective, I believe our next steps include bringing elected officials, civic leaders, and the community together, to hold larger conversations on the issue of race, equity, and diversity, and to discuss its impact on Hamilton Township, Mercer County, and on each other.

These conversations will center on the concept of Inclusive Diversity.

Inclusive Diversity, in my assessment, is the vision of multiculturalism at decision making tables, in key areas of society, where participants are valued and respected for their insight and perspective, resulting in intentional strategies and outcomes that develops a community and world that is more equitable, representative, united, engaged, innovative, creative, talented, productive, and operative, at the fullness of her God-given potential and ability.

To obtain this, I believe we need to develop a strategic plan that will: 1) Encourage a return to God and faith; 2) Empower historically marginalized community members with accessibility to mental, physical, and financial health that enables them to be productive citizens; 3) Eliminate educational disparity and the pipeline from school to prison; 4) Enrich community through civic education and engagement; and, 5) Enlist qualified leadership in law enforcement, criminal justice, elected office, and the school system, reflective of current community demographics.

This approach will not be easy, and it will come with criticism. Some would rather just protest, complain, ignore the issue, or just hope they can pray it away. But in the words of John Lewis, I am setting out to get into some “good necessary trouble” by holding some uncomfortable conversations that will move us past our current failures and fears. When this happens, maybe all of us will be able to breathe, and none of us will place our knee or a bullet in the back of our neighbor.

So, can we talk?

comments powered by Disqus