2015-07-23 / Opinion

Rectifying Discrimination is Everyone's Responsibility

To the Editor:

Most would agree that the recent slaughter at the A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S. C., was shocking and unconscionable. We are especially repulsed when such abhorrent acts violate the sanctity of a place of worship. Logic fails us when we look for a rational explanation.

The shooter said that he wanted to start a race war. What sense is there in that? What would that possibly accomplish? There is, of course, the possibility that this young man was operating from a diminished capacity to formulate reasonable thoughts. Perhaps he has a mental illness. However, this could only serve as an explanation, not an excuse for taking the lives of nine innocent people.

Some white people may feel that it’s OK to take a pass on this opprobrious event, saying, “Some of my best friends are…" Well, it’s good that they enjoy friendships with black people, but that’s not good enough. All of us own a piece of this discrimination pie and we all have a responsibility to do something about it.

At its monthly meeting on July 6, the Newport Democratic City Committee (NDCC) discussed this issue and adopted a “we’re not going to take it anymore” stance to all forms of discrimination. We said that there is no justification for discrimination against people because of the color of their skin, gender, country of origin, sexual orientation, disability, or religious practice. We have a code of laws that not only serves to protect people in these classes, but recognizes them as entitled to the full measure of American citizenship.

NDCC members also enacted a motion affirming our support of basic principles that are not just in compliance with the law of the land but also in accordance with the laws of human decency: “In recognition of the hurtful discrimination very much in evidence in this country and the consequential need to take action in a meaningful way to address it, we hereby personally pledge to take a ‘no tolerance’ stance whenever a racially offensive joke or remark is uttered in our presence by assertively stating that such language is offensive and unacceptable.” We invite the entire community to take the same pledge.

NDCC also took exception to the odious remarks by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump about Mexican people and the eerie silence of so many of his fellow candidates. Shame is a polite word for what they should feel. Just think, too, how such statements are seen on the international scene.

NDCC is interested in working with other organizations in the community to address the problem of racism in our society. We invite comment from governmental entities, faith-based groups, civic and human service agencies, and the like. We will be reaching out to the Newport County branch of the NAACP to discuss a youth "Speak- Out" forum. We know that poverty has an insidious impact on the culture of any community, so we want to review data regarding education and employment opportunities for minority populations. We hope that religious organizations will make the injustice of racism a regular topic in their worship and education services. We would like to see how this issue is inculcated into the educational process and encourage school departments to host special lectures on equality and justice.

There is a lot that we can do… there always has been. But, not unlike our fallen infrastructure, we have been negligent in attending to a basic element in a civil society: to be caring, thoughtful and understanding human beings. It’s time to get it right.

J. Clement Cicilline, Chair,
Newport Democratic Committee

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