Community Consultation Forum
On May 25, 2016 at 6:30p.m, Indianapolis community leaders gathered at Christian Theological Seminary to discuss current events and pressing issues occurring within the Indianapolis area. Dr. Terri Jett from the Political Science Department at Butler University and an active member of the Indianapolis branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) addressed the room of approximately twenty individuals with an introductory discussion focusing on race relations and hate groups in the context of the current political climate in the United States.
Dr. Jett provided the members of the Community Consultation Forum with background information and statistics regarding racial hostility, specifically as it exists in the Indianapolis community. According to her research, only thirty-three percent of Americans are under the impression that race relations are a problem in our country, today. Furthermore, Dr. Jett presented visual charts to depict the rising number of hate groups in America and where they are located. Referencing the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map, Dr. Jett highlighted the 15 hate groups in Indiana alone. You can read more here: https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map.
One of the focal points of Dr. Jett’s introduction was the rampant mass incarceration rates in America and how people of color are disproportionately arrested at far higher numbers than their white counterparts. Finally, Dr. Jett ended her introduction by calling for the need for massive reforms within the criminal justice system and allocating more of our resources to improving the school systems in order to end the school-to-prison pipeline that countless people of color fall victim to.
Following Dr. Jett’s informative discussion of race relations in America, Waseema Ali, the Managing Director of the Desmond Tutu Center moderated a discussion with the attendees. Ali began with a call to action: What can we do as, Indianapolis-based organizations, to address hate discourse in the public arena? Much of the conversation focused on America’s current political climate and how it has sparked an overwhelming amount of racist and hateful rhetoric.
Some attendees were able to provide first-hand insight to the problems that they face in their everyday life as a result of their skin color and how white privilege affects the current political system. Many community members concluded that our attempts of creating a colorblind society and heightened attention to black exceptionalism has created the perfect environment for racial indifference in this country.
Another important issue addressed by the group was the need for a rational, loud voice to speak out against hateful narratives, raising the discourse to a higher level of visibility, particularly in the media. Bringing a peaceful, rational voice to the forefront has the potential to increase community understanding, familiarity with organizations and issues, and build stronger relationships. The group also discussed the increasing need for organizations to collaborate on addressing local and national social issues, including cross-generational and multi-disciplinary collaborations.
Ali closed the discussion by calling all present organizations into action. The group agreed that all need to work together and speak with a loud, rational voice to combat the rampant hatred in the Indianapolis community and find a way to correct racial injustices.
By: Caroline Whang