Reverend Dr. Larry Whitley of Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Matthews has a vision, which he shared on October 27. In the light of recent racial unrest, his goal is to bring races together to work on a plan for understanding and harmony in the community. Rev. Whitley wants to make Matthews a therefore better place, and sees this racial transition spreading across the United States in a ripple effect.
The panel for the evening consisted of Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor, Matthews Chief of Police,
Rob Hunter, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff, the Captain of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, and local clergy of the Town of Matthews. Tonya Rivens, WBTV-3 personality, was the moderator for this well attended gathering.
Tonya’s first question asked about what “Black lives matter” meant to those on the panel. One panel member felt that it was a call to action, because many people feel as if, since they are not prejudiced, they do not need to be part of the solution. Another pointed out that many people have blind spots, and this phrase expresses the need to listen to the other side.
The Mayor’s concern is that the phrase has been abused by giving “not so good people” permission to do the wrong thing, regardless of race. He feels that people should “preach the word of unity”, and that there should be more forums like this. The panel called for more diversity training in the workplace, to stress that we are all different, but we all want the same things: respect and understanding.
The next question asked if the panel thought there was still prejudice and discrimination in our country, and the question was met with a resounding “yes”. When specifically addressing workplace discrimination, the Mayor pointed out that City employment is based on the “best qualified person”, and not on race or gender. He said that the racial composition of city workers reflects the racial composition of Matthews.
He also asserted that he has an “open door policy” for anyone who wishes to discuss these issues with him. Others on the panel explained that prejudice must be acknowledged and dealt with before true racial equality and non-prejudice can exist. Only through honest assessment can we begin to see and attempt to fix the problem.
Next, several questions and comments were posed by the audience. One gentleman offered that, since most prejudice is taught by parents, that children of various races and cultures should have opportunities to get together from an early age.
Therefore, they will experience the “luxury of diversity” and realize “we are all just people.” Another audience member pointed out that “differences are what make a community great”, and therefore we should “embrace our diversity”. Yet another added, “I just want the same justice in the black community as the white”.
The evening was capped off with a music video of a singer promising that “change is a’comin’, after which Rev. Whitley challenged the faith based community to “step up and show the way to better relationships.” He stated, “People fail to get along because they don’t know each other”. Therefore, he suggested each member of the audience make a new friend before leaving, and make plans to get to know that person.
The evening disbursed in a definite air of optimism, with a promise of more meetings of this nature. As one young man said, “We have a long way to go, but we can get there”.