The Charlottesville protests that spiraled out of control, the Ferguson riots, and the events after Freddie Gray’s killing in Baltimore are examples of an overarching problem facing our nation. It is an inability to have an open, honest and civil conversation about race.
It is one the Seacoast Peace Academy, based in Portsmouth, is looking to address with “living room” conversations about racism.
On Sept. 16, 1-4 p.m., the Academy will partner with Truth Telling Project to have one such conversation at the Portsmouth Public Library. It will be a chance “not only for people of color to tell their stories around the ways in which racism impacts their lives, but also for white folks to explore their part in a system of white supremacy,” according to Melinda Salazar, an academy founder.
Realize it or not, we all enter this world with advantages and disadvantages, some more or less than others. Being born to privilege is not limited to money or social status. It includes race.
The term “privilege” in this context is not used to lay blame. Rather it is to address how we see the world around us and how we go about making decisions on such critical issues as affordable housing, education and the extent to which government should be a tool for change, among others.
It no longer suffices to live in our own tightly woven cocoons. The growing diversity of the country and, over the last several decades, the state and region, demands that we work at being one united nation accepting of various rich identities and cultures.
This means reaching out and having conversations about our differences, be they over religion, politics or, in this case, race. It may mean for some swallowing pride and realizing that we may not always be right. Or it may be realizing that what one person sees as reality is not what is seen by another.
The Racial Unity Team of Exeter will use the Walk a Mile For Racial Unity event on Oct. 21 as a deep dive into the history of racial discrimination in Exeter against African-Americans, Chinese-Americans and Native Americans. The walk visits sites around town where these reported instances of discrimination occurred.
“This is pretty much a white area,” said group member Joy Meiser Mendis, of Stratham. “Some people think, ‘Well this isn’t an issue,’ but it is. For those people that are non-white living in the area, it definitely is an issue.”
The Racial Unity Team of Exeter, like the Seacoast Peace Academy, is also working to bring race conversation into local school curricula. Seacoast Peace Academy member Paula Roy said kids are now having these types of conversations at the “fifth grade level.”
Regardless, if we are not willing to sit down and talk about our differences there will certainly be more Charlottesvilles and Fergusons.
Is that a world in which any of us want to live, one of violence and strife?
We think the answer is self-evident.
On Sept. 16 we urge readers to start a local conversation about the differences that should no longer divide us, but rather unite us in understanding the diversity that has made our nation great.
Originally Posted on www.SeaCoastOnline.com