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Race to gather

The importance of moving together

Last week, Martese Johnson was thrown to the ground, bloodied and bruised after attempting to get into a bar. At this point, it seems entirely unclear whether the officers were provoked to use force in Johnson’s arrest. However, many have accused the police officers of lacking human decency and described them as brutal and uneducated.

On the opposite end of the discussion, some are complaining that Johnson overplayed his race in the situation, as videos reveal him yelling, “You f***ing racists.” One commenter on The Cavalier Daily website wrote, “Based on my experiences in the bar industry, this seems more like a drunk underage kid feeling entitled than it does racism...”

To me, it seems like most people are taking one hard, polarizing stance in this debate. Of course we have the right to be upset, but what if we channeled our resentment into growth?

Starbucks’ CEO, Howard Schultz, sought to do just this — open up conversation in hopes of moving forward — and was immediately criticized. His “Race Together” campaign encourages customers and baristas to have a conversation about racial culture in our country. Yes, such a busy setting as Starbucks may not be the ideal place to start this discussion, but Schultz had the bravery to start somewhere.

Free papers stacked on Starbucks countertops highlight various statistics, ranging from an index of diversity in 25 years to research showing U.S. concentration of wealth and poverty. A statement on the front page reads, “Race together is not a solution, but is an opportunity to begin to re-examine how we can create a more empathetic and inclusive society.”

Still, in spite of its honesty, the campaign has been met with immense animosity. Gwen Ifill, a PBS news anchor, tweeted, “Honest to God, if you start to engage me in a race conversation before I’ve had my morning coffee, it will not end well.”

Why are we so quick to criticize? Whether the Race Together campaign is extraordinarily effective, I am excited that such a large corporation is trying something. It’s a start — a new beginning that we so desperately need.

The campaign calls us to gather together and come to the table. It pushes us to bridge gaps and engage in honest conversation. It invites us to share our hopes and our fears and, in humility and reverence, build each other up rather than tear each other down. There should be more initiatives with these goals launched across the country. Yes, we need to move forward, but perhaps first, we need to move together.

Peyton’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at p.williams@cavalierdaily.com.

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