Editorial: Post MLK Day: Where do we go from here?

Editorial: Post MLK Day: Where do we go from here?
January 29
00:00 2015

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday has come and gone. The special service days are history, too, as well as the special programs. However, at least one program on MLK Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 19, has challenged the Winston-Salem community to keep working.

The 2015 MLK Jr. Day Breakfast Forum, sponsored by The Chronicle, attracted more than 1,300 people. It had the theme: Is racism America’s Berlin Wall?

Publisher Ernie Pitt presented the notion at the forum that racism in America is like the Berlin Wall, which was built to keep people in Communist East Berlin from working and living with those in Western West Berlin. However, the two sides were in the same country, Germany.
So it is in America. Black Americans were brought to the country as slaves and have endured racism in various forms ever since. There is a wall separating black and white Americans, but it does not have to be so.

“Black America needs white America to take the hammer and tear this wall down,” Pitt said. He said humans have built this wall, and humans need to tear it down, just as the Berlin Wall was torn down after President Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear it down.

At the forum, a number of community and business leaders helped start the discussion on the topic. They acknowledged that racism is real, although some said that some people don’t want to acknowledge that, and others said it is covert now in many ways because it is systemic.

Educators said education is the way to end racism because it levels the playing field. Government officials said they are working on the issue in various ways, from creating a police review board to holding community forums.

Some leaders called for black and white activists to speak out against racism.

Ministers said the Black Church needs to talk openly about it as members follow Jesus’ teachings, such as addressing the physical needs of the person so that his mind will be clear when addressing his spiritual needs.

Social welfare leaders urge people to build relationships so that trust will grow.

At the MLK breakfast, questions were at each table to spark small group discussions.

One question was: Do you think having an African-American president has helped race relations in America?

Another question was: What do you think should be done to improve race relations? How do we begin? What, who, where and when should be our focus?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a book in 1967 titled “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” in which he looked at America’s future, a future in which black Americans now had laws such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that presented new freedom. He concludes that the fight should move to a new arena, to end poverty and create equal opportunity.

What do you say? Is racism America’s Berlin Wall? And if so, how do we tear down the wall?

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Tell us: Where do we go from here?

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