Fame fosters forum

Published 12:03 am Thursday, July 23, 2015

MONUMENTS AND MUCH MORE

Though passions ran deep, the people who talked to Salisbury City Council Tuesday about the Confederate Monument did so with calm and respect. They made good use of the public comment portion of the meeting to publicly air their opinions.

The session was a good start for what could and should be a thorough examination of ways to build better race relations in the city.

Hood Theological Seminary has stepped forward to help move the discussion along with a community forum. “Beginning a Healing Conversation” is aimed at fostering better relations, respect and understanding regarding race, justice and peace. President Vergel Lattimore will moderate a panel discussion. It will be held 7-8:30 p.m. July 30 at The Aymer Center, and is free and open to the public.

Dropping the monument discussion would now be counter-productive. Speakers at Tuesday’s meeting were more in agreement than disagreement, council member Brian Miller said; and opportunities for discussion of issues that haven’t been dealt with in years provides “an exercise in civics,” Miller said.

Questions about the statue will come up again and again until its message is clarified or updated and Salisbury’s monuments are in tune with the city’s diverse population. We can honor history without perpetuating outdated attitudes.

To be certain, issues much bigger than public statuary drive the frustration many black residents feel in Salisbury — whites, too — issues such as gun violence, unsolved murders, lopsided justice, scarcity of well-paying jobs, lack of job preparedness, education gaps and more. Those are the areas that beg for deeper study and concrete action.

The police substation in the West End is a case in point. An outcry for better police protection in the predominantly black West End last year led to restructured patrols and the opening of a substation a few hours every other week. Residents never embraced it as the safe haven the police chief envisioned, though. Why not? Where is the disconnect? What else can the city do to help residents feel safe?

Salisbury needs to fully understand its past — from all perspectives — to build a stronger community and move forward. City Council gave citizens a platform Tuesday to get the process started. Thank you to all the courageous people who spoke up.

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