Not long ago I was on a panel that convened in reflection to the play RACE at the Florida Studio Theater. Here is the blog I posted about that experience. There are several that are related to this experience. Contributing to a community discussion about a timely and relevant issue is not to be entered into without pause and thought. When the issue is race and the play that is the vehicle for the dialogue is RACE, it is anxiety producing. I attended the play with a friend-colleague who lives in Newtown and is African-American. When I mentioned to him that the play itself declared at least two or three times that a White person cannot talk about racism, his response was instant and to the point. He told me that it is White people who need to talk about race. He went on to say that it is the absence of Black-White dialogue that has stifled progress.
OK. I agree.
In 2008 SCOPE, the organization that employs me, completed a year-long look at the issue of Race and Cultural Relations in our community (Sarasota County). This forty page report is the product of nearly 300 local residents thinking, learning and analyzing data and stories about our local community.
In the Foreword of that report, I wrote that there were several important lessons from this community engagement work around this topic.
* There is a clear and measurable difference in the indicators of quality of life in our County and the difference is based upon both race and income.
* Important change - progress is more likely to occur in the community when diversity is less the focus of a community effort but when it is incorporated into all realms of life. This includes business, government, housing, education, etc. That is, differences matter and in all areas of life our community is most likely to improve when diverse participants are engaged in all scales that effect decisions and change.
*Racism and bias are related to privilege and power and are often assumed rather than directly declared.
*Sarasota County is segregated by both race and income.
This report goes on to identify some ideas that the 300+ residents thought could help move our community forward.
In the next blog post I will identify some ideas that came from this local resident-led report and from the Annie E. Casey Foundation RACE MATTERS project.