Has there been a time in recent memory when our public discourse has focused so intensively on race and allegations of racism? The Trayvon Martin tragedy in Florida. The Delmon Young arrest in New York. And, closer to home, in the continuing debate over the dire need for an Emergency Financial Manager in Detroit, an “us vs. them” theme that too often pervades arguments against such an appointment.
For some, it is purely about hate. For others, including politicians focused on developing a platform based on polarization on which to run, it is about perpetuating old stereotypes for selfish means. In all cases, though, racism is about ignorance.
Just as bullying is in the headlines with a new documentary film, Congressional hearings and a no tolerance doctrine in schools, racism needs to remain in the spotlight until it is stamped out.
How? We can start by doing a better job of talking to and getting to know each other better. In school. In church. In the workplace. And in public forums. This past week at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s “Detroit Business Conference”, DPS Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts spoke on a panel discussing talent retention and training. Always passionate and candid, Roberts said (reported by MLive) that old-fashioned ideas about who’s a real Detroiter is holding the city back as it tries to move forward.
“Detroit is a city that’s so proud of being a black city that it hurts us,” Roberts said. “We’ve got to get over this race issue.”
His words, for many in the room was like a salve for sore ears, an elixir for heavy hearts, an invitation for calm yet reflective contemplation and honest dialogue. To cure that which ails us takes both the conviction to speak out but also a willingness to listen – both without prejudice.