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Editorial: A conversation that should never stop

Enough good points were made at Thursday night’s forum, “Beginning a Healing Conversation,” that they are worth listing:

• The Rev. Dr. Ken Walden and pastor Russell Smyre said conversations on things such as race, diversity and togetherness have to start at home, around dinner tables.

Walden encouraged members of the audience to invite people from a different race into their homes for dinner. Change has to start person-to-person on a micro level, Walden said, or there will be some serious collisions on the macro level. Throughout the nation, there have been too many of those.

• Whitney Peckman asked white people in the audience whether they are really invested in their African-American neighbors as people. So many whites say, yes, they care, but they’re really paying lip service to that investment, Peckman said.

• There is still a need for owning up to the past and realizing what one person considers as his heritage has completely different meaning to others. The Rev. Dr. Grant Harrison, who is black, made this point concisely when he noted that Salisbury’s Confederate monument was erected in 1909, the year his father was born.

When he sees that monument, Harrison doesn’t think of glory on the battlefield, soldiers of valor or states’ rights. He wonders instead what life was like for his father in 1909 and in the years ahead.

• Again, in the owning-up vein, the Rev. Timothy Bates said for a community to talk about “healing” must mean there is a wound or sickness. Bates thinks that is the case. “Everything is not OK in Rowan County,” he said.

• On becoming a more inclusive community, the Rev. Dr. William M. Jordan III said it best: “The elephant in the room is we have to get beyond our fear of each other.”

• More than one forum participant mentioned their concerns that Thursday’s “beginning” discussion would turn out to be another dead end.

What assurances could anyone give, leaving Hood Theological Seminary Thursday night, that a conversation about things such as race, diversity and inclusiveness would continue? And even if it did, how long would the dialogue last and how is progress measured?

It’s clear the conversation started Thursday night has to continue and never stop — and there lies the real, difficult challenge. In the end, it can’t be a government thing, a club thing, a church thing, a neighborhood thing or a task force thing.

It’s has to be a people thing, where everybody’s at the table buying in, with no lip service involved. Retired pastor Bob Freeman asked an interesting question Thursday: “Did God make us different colors just to see how we would handle it?”

It’s time to roll up our sleeves and, as Stephen Pocklington proposed Thursday, start a new heritage with room for everyone.

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