City struggles with legacy of Dialogue on Race process

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For a long time, talk about race in Charlottesville happened behind closed doors. The city’s history of slavery, racial segregation, and urban renewal is still vividly imprinted on the minds of its natives, both black and white. Newcomers, from UVA professors to business people, bring their own sets of ideas and assumptions.

JUMP TO:

Andrew Williams
Colette Blount
Frank Dukes
Jeff Fogel
Jim Shea
Juandiego Wade
Kathy Galvi
Kristin Szakos
Dr. M. Rick Turner
Martha Trujillo
Raynell C. Stokes
Ronald Knight
James Brown
John Whitehead
Toan Nguyen
Ty Cooper
Walter Heinecke
Willa Neale
Ned Michie

In essence, Charlottesville balances confliting identities: a university town with a progressive spirit and an old Southern city.

City government has made various past attempts to address the issue of racial discrimination, but none has come to fruition. In 2008, however, City Council tasked then-Assistant City Manager Maurice Jones, an African-American with a broadcasting background, with creating a plan for discussing race relations in the city. Now almost four years old, the Dialogue on Race has morphed into a free-standing initiative that has involved, at one point or another, more than 700 residents.

With the help of a consulting firm, the dialogue took the initial form of study circles, with groups of residents getting together to discuss their experiences and propose tangible solutions for the city’s race problem, which is a basic assumption of the dialogue. The next step was to create working groups with specific expectations, and as part of the Government Working Group, the Policy Action Team has worked for months to craft a proposal for a permanent commission on civil rights.

In early February, City Council will consider whether to allocate $300,000 as a start up cost, and $200,000 per year in the future, for a commission geared toward investigating and enforcing anti-discrimination laws in housing and private employment. The ultimate goal of the Commission is to enforce non-discriminatory practices and, eventually, to become a local branch of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We are basically asking for the City Council to create anti-discrimination ordinances that are already active in other locations around Virginia and that reflect the federal law,” Walter Heinecke, a UVA professor who served on the Policy Action Team, told the local chapter of the NAACP recently.

When the idea was presented to City Council in December, the Charlottesville Commission on Human Rights, Diversity and Race Relations, as the proposal calls the initiative, received some push-back from the local business community.

“Business people are very concerned about unsubstantiated allegations that result in a cost to a business and no action,” said Timothy Hulbert, president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce. He added that almost two dozen businesses have already reached out to him personally expressing concern.

“Our Chamber has expressed some real concerns about proceeding with a politically appointed investigatory and enforcement tribunal,” said Hulbert. “Our Chamber prefers a positive, constructive approach as opposed to an entity with a punitive prospective.”

For their part, City Council members have supported the idea but hedged on the money.
“The cost of $300,000 is a significant amount of funds in a time when we are hardly able to meet our current budget,” said Mayor Satyendra Huja.

As it is proposed, the Commission would consist of seven City Council-appointed members, representing the city’s ethnic diversity, and would be administered by an executive director, also appointed by the City Council, an investigator, and an administrative assistant.

The Commission’s proposed annual budget is also another point of contention, mostly between City Councilors.

Huja said his vote would depend on proof that there was need for the services the Commission would provide.

“I need to see more data, in order to say [there is a need],” he said. “Right now, I am not seeing that.”

Data obtained by Heinecke from the EEOC show that in the past year 49 charges were filed against respondents in Charlottesville, up from 42 in 2010. Hulbert is not convinced the numbers point to the necessity of a commission and said that the data “demonstrated that the mechanisms that are already in place are handling it.”

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Dr. M. Rick Turner, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, sees the push-back to the commission as a denial that something is wrong in Charlottesville, which essentially undermines the original impetus for the Dialogue on Race.

“I am not sure we really understand what we are up against,” he said.

Before City Council picks up the discussion in early February, Jones has to make his recommendation to Council, and he’s still not sure what it will be.

“We’re still researching the proposal and haven’t established any recommendations just yet,” he wrote in an e-mail.

“If it’s left to the City Manager, they are not going along with it,” said Turner.

In the meantime, people like Ronald Knight will be left to consider what role race, and racism, still plays in their daily lives and whether ideas spawning from the Dialogue on Race will actually become a reality.

In November, C-VILLE began circulating seven questions to community leaders and elected officials that explore the question of race relations in Charlottesville. Here are their complete responses.

 

Andrew Williams
Former Independent Candidate for City Council

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?

(File photo)

Affirmative action and integration, ensures that our country is ready and able to function on a global scale. Affirmative action is still relevant in today’s world as the original purpose was to promote equality as it relates to race, religion, and national origin. Our country, state, and city still have much room for improvement as it relates to these classifications. The problem is that some "in power" still do not fully embrace equal rights, so affirmative action and integration policies may only succeed at encouraging equal opportunity and equality if applied correctly with an inclusive agenda. Some companies realize that to best serve a diverse market, they must have a diverse workforce that encompasses cultural acceptance and works at eliminating indifference and hatred. However, integration policies can harm companies if the emphasis is simply on hiring a diverse workforce, without instilling a culture of acceptance that educates and builds open discussions social issues.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?
I was always aware of my race, but never classified myself within a particular group of people. The emphasis with me as a child was realizing my full potential and utilizing it the best I could without letting outside circumstances influence the way I felt. Thus, I’ve learned to cater any message (whether formal or informal) to fit the needs of the audience at hand. I am aware, however, that my persona must be far different than what the news media portrays young black males to be. I ran for City Council in 2009 as a 22 year old student and certainly was aware that me doing so caught a lot of attention not only because of what I was trying to promote and influence, but that I did not fit some people’s expectations of what young black males were doing here in Charlottesville. By simply participating in the race for a City Council seat, in many ways, I succeeded in changing some people’s ideas about what the young black community cared about (better government and balanced representation).

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
For the most part, UVA definitely encourages racial diversity. With programs such as AccessUVa and the Ridley Scholars program, administrative support such as the Office of Diversity & Equity, the Dean of Students, and the Office of African American Affairs, and many cultural and ethnic studies programs and departments, UVA has many platforms from which it instills the possibility of a totally inclusive and racially diverse community. However, within the walls of its practices, the benefits of such entities are rarely seen. The very actions and monetary support for racially classified and represented programs, professors, and students at UVA have seen little to no growth. (By hiring low numbers of faculty, and professors of color; by accepting “gradually growing” numbers of undergraduate and graduate students of color; by hardly reinforcing institutional support for its cultural and language studies programs, leading to the cutting of degrees, and the inability for departments to hire professors; by barely monetarily supporting the interests of the groups of color who walk the grounds of the university; by UVA not directly teaming up with local schools and communities to solve and/or learn of how to solve socio-economic & racial issues, and make Charlottesville citizens feel welcome to the grounds many of their families have served for generations – encouragement of racial diversity can be viewed as low-aimed for the highly ranked institution.) Though, there are many within the institution that work vehemently to enhance “the efforts,” the communities that add to the racial diversity of UVA, and those that are on-looking to join those communities, may not always feel or notice the encouragement the university may give.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?
Yes to an extent—and possibly on a case by case basis. The real solution to social problems starts in the mind of the beholder; i.e. neighbors, colleagues, fellow classmates, etc. As government continues to fail at solving all of the problems of our communities “respectively”, so will a committee that does not incorporate members from the community it intends to serve, especially, those that are educated and invested in resolving such social problems as poor race relations. By incorporating such members, a local government committee on race is ensured to work.

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial diversity?
Yes because of the different perspectives, cultures and problems these various groups face, it is important to consistently have such representation. How can one understand dilemmas they have not experience themselves? Books will only teach you so much and are subjective, the media overall is what a select few want the public to see and equality is still a serious problem despite some social progress. If a city aims to effectively handle the issues dear to its citizens, it is important to have representatives who reflect and embody the very essence of what is near and dear to its citizens. By having a diverse elected body, the city can ensure the interests and their needs are met effectively.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?
Charlottesville has had a long history of unequal access and opportunity as most towns in the South. Charlottesville now, though having changed in many positive ways, fails to deliver on such ideals by not effectively working to invite and/or create jobs and programs that can build equal access and opportunity for the mighty mixed dynamic that makes up this city. Many in Charlottesville are having a hard time to make ends meet. Some parents have to work two jobs, and taking up nighttime shifts, in order to feed their families—leaving some children without someone to help them with homework. There is great leadership here, however, without representatives who understand and works with the communities to deliver on those ideals, failure will always be in imminent in this area. With such inequalities and lack of support, the ideals of equal access and opportunity are nearly invisible to those in need in Charlottesville.

7. What does an "unbiased community" mean to you?
To me an “unbiased community” means a community that is not afraid of facing and resolving poor decisions that have made a negative impact on a group of people. The families that were negatively affected by the upheaval of Vinegar Hill certainly have had and may continue to have a biased perception of Charlottesville’s leadership due to their failure to protect its citizens. An “unbiased community” is one that isn’t segregated in the 21st century, unlike Charlottesville to the extent that it is. Opportunity has its definition on paper, but has a different meaning when it is applied to issues such as racial profiling, equal opportunity employment, balanced representation and housing. In my mind, to successfully have an “unbiased community”, citizens must be consistent in successfully and equally including all of its members by providing programs that encourage such and making equally beneficial decisions that guarantee the strengthening of all of city residents.

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Colette Blount
Member of the City of Charlottesville School Board

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?
There was a sociological study in the 1970s that asked people to look at a group photo and offer insights about the image. Most of the white respondents found little “issue” with the image. Blacks, however, easily noted that the only people in the image were white men and women. We see what we choose to see; we also can’t see what we don’t want to see. While I am optimistic of our ultimate capacity to expand beyond the confines of limited vision, the reality is that the characteristic that renders some with “clouded” vision still exists. Policies can ensure equality until the cataract that impedes vision is removed. Literacy, in part, lies with one’s ability to navigate various cultural terrains. We are that much “richer,” “wiser,” and “astute” when we learn of things beyond the confines of our comfort zone. Integration policy does not work when made under the assumption that an entire culture needs another culture in order to evolve. Until misunderstandings and short-sightedness are de-institutionalized and we can rely on the ability of people to “see” what is humane, we need policy. Policy is but a placeholder until our humanity catches up.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?
Even when looking in a mirror, I don’t “see” my skin; rather, it’s something that I know is there. I’m reminded of my skin and its genetic coloration when: #1: While in “Games 4 U” over 10 years ago, I saw a clerk snub my daughter by ignoring her. I spoke up, both to inform the clerk of her lack of vision and to show my daughter that she was worthy of being seen. #2: While walking on a sidewalk or on the Mall, in order to avoid being bumped by an oncomer, I move; the oncomer never sways from his/her path. If I don’t move, and the bump occurs, then sometimes the person “sees” me. I’ve never been “bumped” by an African-American. While I’m aware that some people just don’t “see” me, I’m also aware that some of the bumpers may be naturally inclined to bump people, regardless of race. I raised my daughter to expect the utmost of fair treatment, hold her ground and walk a straight line (except in the cases of elder folk, expectant moms, and the like!). #3: Also, I haven’t met an African-American woman in Charlottesville who hasn’t had the experience of either being followed, overlooked, or immediately shown the “sale” items while shopping.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
“Encourage” implies pro-active behavior. In a university setting that espouses diversity, one might expect to see a show of commitment as exhibited by student, staff, and faculty composition, both in numbers and in divergent perspectives. Having a wide variety of course offerings, extracurricular opportunities, and public discourse would also lend itself to supporting diversity.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?
Who better to examine the issues of a society than the inhabitants of that society?! We should not stray too far from the ideal that “government” is the people. There is a divisiveness around the issue of race within Charlottesville’s society that, I believe, is hindering integral forward movement. The razing of Vinegar Hill, for example, was a government-sanctioned ordeal. Why should the citizens—across backyard fences—attempt to handle the still-lingering repercussions of this event. Red-tape aside, a government committee can make “official” that which the people themselves will and should create. A formalized process, with missions, goal-setting, and evaluations, placed in the annuls of history, would hopefully serve as a model for current and future generations of how a community may heal itself.

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial diversity?
Having diverse opinions can positively inform our decision-making. I am confident our country would have a few less amendments had the membership around the voting table at the Constitutional Convention included slaves, indentured servants, and women, et al. We, the people, have come a distance in these 225 years. The ability for an individual to do or see what is right is not exclusive to any one group of people. The question itself implies that there is a constant pool from which to “pull” potential candidates for office. Interest in public office ebbs and flows within a community. Mentoring can fill any real or apparent dearth and cultivate an interest in public service. Having elected officials capable of “seeing” diverse histories lends a sense of trust and commitment to various undertakings. This does not preclude the notion that theability to recognize and respect diverse cultural heritages first resides within the individual.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?
On a late-summer stroll through a New York neighborhood, my daughter brought to my attention how, over a couple of centuries, that community had gone through a variety of transformations: from predominantly Irish-American, to African-American, and to its current configuration as Latino-American. Communities are energetic bodies, replete with histories, traditions, etc. Demographically, Charlottesville is changing. Historical events like Vinegar Hill and Massive Resistance have fueled the community’s transformational process. The City’s current employment and housing options also perpetuate this shift of cultures due to limitations around choice and sustainability. Who, and by what means, decides when a community changes?

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
Unbiased means that the ideals, beliefs, traditions, and desires of a person or group do not reign supreme over those of another person or group. While differences are inherent to us all—they’re what make us unique—they can also be fodder for confusion, hatred, fear, intolerance, indifference, and heightened notions of superiority. Night is not better than day, just different. Each has merit and need of the other. Heralding bias-free notions means that we are forever “students,” learning to shift and grow with the times. As a community, if we continue to ignore the vibrancy and health of diverse opinions and viewpoints, we stunt our sensibilities. We may run the risk of “binding” our children’s creativity, flexibility, and ability to empathize, ultimately hindering them from finding their own humanity in others.

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Frank Dukes
UVA Professor, Institute for Environmental Negotiation, Project director, University & Community Action for Racial Equity

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?There is so much misinformation about affirmative action, with many whites (including students that I teach) thinking that they are at a severe disadvantage compared to African Americans or other ethnic groups. This is so despite the case that as a whole – that is an
important distinction, meaning this is not true for all individuals—as a whole, African Americans face far more harm and whites have far more privileges. 

Many of these racial disparities can be traced directly to active discrimination that may no longer take place, but whose impacts were never addressed. For instance, discrimination in housing, education and employment has led to significantly less family wealth for African
Americans, a situation that leads to other problems that occur in greater proportion within that community and which tend to endure for generations.

Most people of all races oppose as unfair any so-called "affirmative action" that would give an advantage to one individual over another who is more qualified. But when the question is framed in other ways – for instance, in a company or college or governmental body that had a policy against hiring or promoting African Americans – most people say there is an obligation to make that right in some way. So yes, it is still relevant.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?

Many times, especially with certain whites, fortunately now very few, who assume that I share their sense of racial superiority. That rarely happens anymore but it does happen still. The other times are in locations where hard physical labor (such as cleaning crews) is taking place; despite Newt Gingrich’s absurd claim, I see far more African Americans working in those roles and at inconvenient times (at night) than their population would indicate should be the case if race truly did not matter.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?

The answer is yes, and no. Many people and programs at UVa are deeply committed to diversity, and the institutional commitment is there strongly as well. Promoting diversity when it is not tied to economics and power is simpler, albeit not necessarily easy, as it is a matter of breaking down stereotypes, fostering productive communication and dialogue, encouraging inter-group encounter in safe situations, and so forth. All of these are items that most individuals and organizations at UVa would agree are important in this emerging multi-ethnic, trans-national world.

But the term ‘diversity’ is problematic, as diversity is not the same as equity or justice. Issues of race and ethnicity often do play out along fault lines of economic and political injustice. My experience with ‘racial diversity’ has been that the term is a way of avoiding discussion about those injustices and inequities that allows one to appear to be sensitive to such issues without needing to act on them. It reinforces the notion that such disparities are an exception to, rather than a consequence of, our nation’s historical political and economic policies or, in the case of UVa, those policies. That is why we began the University and Community Action for Racial Equity (www.ucareva.org), to understand our racial history and its real and enduring impact within and outside of UVa, and to support action that confronts the legacy of harmful policies and practices. And even as there is much support for this effort, there is much work to be done.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel
is a social problem?

No committee can solve anything. This question has biased wording, so that a "yes" or "no" won’t mean anything. Look at this differently: An appointed body that has representatives from the private, public and nonprofit sectors who are committed to addressing racial inequities could play a major role in many ways in advancing racial equity. This body would need to have a clear mandate that has been thought through in consultation with leaders from these sectors. A group that honors institutions that promote fair practices and insists that community standards be met when they are not would, in fact, be a real contribution, yes.

5. Should the composition of our local government  reflect our city’s racial diversity?

If there were a pattern in which that did not occur over a longer period of time, that would indicate a significant problem. But at any one time, no. I do think that all representatives, regardless of race, should be aware of our racial history and the extraordinary measures
that were taken – denial of voting rights, educational exclusion at all levels including the university, housing laws, employment discrimination, violence and threats of violence – to ensure that African Americans would never prosper. The legacy of those actions is visible today and policymakers, like all of us, have a role to play in addressing the harms that have resulted.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?

See above.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?

One in which our prospects and those of our children would no longer be so strongly shaped by race, and where our differences may be celebrated but no longer define us.

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Jeff Fogel
Attorney

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do
proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?

When thinking about affirmative action, we first have to consider the historical reasons why it was considered necessary. The framers of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution intended to eliminate not just the fact of slavery, but the “badges and incidents,” the “relics,” of slavery as well.

This was the promise made to the newly freed slaves. After an initial effort to fulfill that promise, the North and South entered into the Compromise of 1877, pursuant to which federal troop were removed from the South and an apartheid system of Jim Crow laws was permitted to keep the former slaves in second class citizenship. That system only began to be dismantled in the late 1960s. Even then discrimination, both overt and subtle continued. Stereotypes remain deeply imbedded in our society.

The freed slaves never received compensation for the suffering experienced during two hundred years of slavery, nor were they reimbursed for the riches they helped create. Poverty, inadequate education, lack of decent housing and the lack of adequate medical care are all attributes of many African-American communities, the roots of which can fairly be traced to slavery, Jim Crow and overt and subtle forms of racism.

Affirmative action retains benefits both for those traditionally closed out of certain jobs and professions and for the society as a whole. Though many people refuse to acknowledge it, racism is alive and well in our society. Affirmative action provides a means of ameliorating that fact, ensuring that minorities are not shut out of certain economic sectors and that we have a diverse workforce. However, to the extent that affirmative action has pitted worker against worker, it has failed. To the extent that affirmative action has been touted as the
solution to the historical oppression of black people in our society, it has failed.

On the other hand, to the extent that we have moved towards integration in our schools and in employment, we have laid the groundwork for one society rather than two.
The solution to the problems that prompted affirmative action lies in fully integrating African-Americans into the economic life that most Americans enjoy.
This will take a serious commitment and will require serious resources. That is the right thing to do for all of us and the only way that our nation can fulfill the
promise it made nearly 150 years ago.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your
race?

What I am most struck by is the virtual absence of black and brown faces at restaurants, concerts, performances and plays.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
Though numbers are not dispositive, they do tell a tale of severe underrepresentation of minorities at UVA. In 2010, only 7 percent of the enrolled students were African American and only 3 percent of the tenured faculty were black. This in a state whose population is 17 percent African American.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a
social problem?

No one committee, no one law, no one activity can solve the problem of race in America. First has to come a full acknowledgment of the oppression of blacks in our society and the roadblocks placed by the society in the way of African-Americans that prevented the development of economically viable communities.

Second has to come a commitment to end the “badges,” “incidents” and “relics” of slavery that still exist. A local government committee can surely address the first question and can be a springing off point for the second.

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial
diversity?

It is impossible to guarantee such a composition, nor should it be necessary. There is no reason why our city councilors could not be all black. More significantly, the lack of civic participation by the African-American community is a clear message to the rest of the community that there is something seriously awry, that blacks do not feel part of the political process and that they do not have the ability to affect it. If we address the causes of that, people will be less concerned with numbers.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and
opportunity?
Poverty remains fixed at about 20-25 percent of our population, almost coterminous with our African-American community. There is almost no black middle class. The principal statistics in which African-Americans predominate are arrest and incarceration rates and rates of infant mortality, life expectancy, inadequate housing, medical care and education. Though Charlottesville has done many things to ameliorate the harsh effects of poverty, it has done little to change the fact of poverty. It has done nothing to reverse the racial disparities in our criminal justice system.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
I’d rather answer the question of what a community means to me. A true community treats each of its members with dignity, respect and equality and seeks to work cooperatively in the interests of all, including (and perhaps most especially) those less fortunate than ourselves. It is a diverse community that celebrates the cultural background and heritage of all of its members.

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Jim Shea
Member of the Dialogue on Race Policy Action Team

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do
proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?

Affirmative action policies are relevant so long as racially disproportionate access to opportunities persist. Affirmative action policies have the best chance of durable success when they involve efforts to correct causes of disproportionate access (e.g. when coupled with appropriate educational/training programs). Affirmative action policies are less likely to achieve enduring success to the extent that they are limited simply to superficial adjustment of numbers.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?
Race is a constant, often significant factor in so many contexts! One ought to be aware of it, to the extent appropriate to the circumstances. Awareness of race is an important element in understanding reality.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
The role of race and diversity at the University is a very complex matter, depending on whether one considers diversity within the academic faculty, or within the student body, or within the staff. Different issues arise in each case. Consider the differing racial proportions within the ranks of different staff departments and the differences in racial representation at higher and lower levels throughout staff departments. Serious, long-standing problems appear in those cases, which the University doesn’t seem inclined to attack vigorously, while it does expend serious effort to recruit African-American faculty and to attract African-American students.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a
social problem?

No, no “local government committee” can “solve” the problem of racial inequity. Racial inequity is not one problem but many, and they are long-standing and deeply-rooted. What we must commit ourselves to is to work militantly to achieve progress toward racial justice, thereby maximizing justice in the life of the entire community. I say ‘militantly’ because too many white people accept a gradualist approach to racial justice, believing that the trend of events is in the right direction and that, in time, things will “continue to improve” for African-Americans. But it ill-befits those who reap the benefits of racial privilege to demand patient forebearance by those who suffer the injuries of racism. To paraphrase a well-known remark, moderation (gradualism) in the cause of racial justice is no virtue, militancy in that cause is no vice!

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial
diversity?

The composition of our elected bodies should reflect not only the racial makeup of our city, but its economic makeup as well. That’s why the presence of Holly Edwards on City Council was so important. She gave voice to the causes and problems of lower income African-Americans, a quite substantial component of our population that local government often seems to have trouble “hearing.”

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and
opportunity?

Our city has a great deal of work to do on many, many fronts!

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
The phrase “unbiased community” is utopian and unhelpful. Let’s commit ourselves to struggle realistically in a militantly progressive direction and leave utopian thinking to those who prefer thought to action!

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Juandiego Wade
Member of the City of Charlottesville School Board

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?
I think that Affirmative Action does have a place in today’s world. I believe that due to past practices Affirmative Action should get qualified candidates a place at the interview table. I believe that discrimination is still present in our society and it prevents qualified candidates from being considered in some instances.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?
I am reminded of my race on a daily basis (as we all are). Sometimes it has been positive and while other times not as positive. I will share two occasions when it was not positive. I was recently in one of the local grocery stores where it is common practice to bring your own bag. I was followed from the moment I entered the store from aisle to aisle by an employee pretending to straighten stock, but constantly watching me. It was very obvious to me what this employee was doing. It was disheartening, but unfortunately I have grown accustomed to this. On another occasion, soon after I got a new car, while driving with my daughter and one of my mentees, I was pulled over for allegedly speeding. After showing my license, registration, and insurance I was able to leave without a citation or warning. I am more than certain that I was not speeding. I used this as a teachable moment for my mentee and daughter on what to do when you are pulled over by the Police. I have no doubt that these two occurrences were due to my race.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
I believe that UVA does encourage racial diversity in our community. The University has attracted a wide range of residents, professors and volunteers to the community. I am fortunate to work with many of them in the non-profit community where they bring a wealth of knowledge.

4. Can local government committees on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?
I believe that such a committee can make a difference. I was in one of the smaller discussion groups in the Dialogue on Race. There was a frank discussion about race amongst blacks, whites, men and women. It was very enlightening for all involved. If the Committee can continue and further that discussion into action, then it can help to solve the problem.

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial diversity?
My response is yes-if the representative is elected. I think we all need to consider participating in the political process to make our elected body representative of our community or consider asking and supporting a neighbor or friend in the political arena. It takes time and energy to serve.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?
I think that the City of Charlottesville does an extraordinary job in addressing equal access and opportunity, but there are better practices that all or most employees can utilize to improve their efforts.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
I have no idea how to answer this question. I will share with you how I attempt to create a community where I want to live and raise a family with a quote from one of my role models, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."

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Kathy Galvin
City Councilor

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?
There is a compelling argument for diversity at all levels of society. To quote Lisa Chang in an article she wrote for Employee Relations Law Journal, "American companies recognize the need for and benefits from tapping into [the strengths of] that diversity, and the Supreme Court has cast an approving eye on those efforts.” Chang, Lisa E. "Grutter v. Bollinger, et al.: Affirmative Action Lessons for the Private Employer." Employee Relations Law Journal. Summer 2004.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?
In the mid-90’s, we chose to place our sons in Johnson Elementary School because of its strong reading, math and content programs, even though we lived in the North Downtown. Johnson was predominately African American (I think over 80%.) I guess we were minorities, but regardless, those were some of our best years in the City Schools.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
I have no idea if UVA has achieved its diversity goals. I’ve been an adjunct faculty in the Architecture School since 2003 and have seen the number of minorities in my classes increase. It’s a positive trend.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?
The Dialogue on Race (DOR) has identified problems and offered solutions. Now is the time to take a comprehensive look at all of the DOR’s initiatives and recommendations, determine which ones will have the greatest social-economic and material impact and then see how they fit into the city’sstrategic plan and budget.

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial diversity?
In a democratic society, the hope is that candidates will reflect the community’s diversity at large. When that doesn’t happen, we need to understand why and plan accordingly.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?
We lack a comprehensive plan to aggressively reduce high unemployment, especially within our African-American neighborhoods. PVCC’s culinary school in the Jefferson School, the Re-entry Pilot program, the Micro-loan program, the Orange Dot Project Report recommendations to name a few are all steps in the right direction but these efforts need to add up and produce tangible results. Once the city receives the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development’s (TJPED) study on the state of our local workforce and economy, we need to create that action plan. An“Economic Opportunity Council” (as recommended by some of the DOR study groupsin May 2010) to help guide the process might be worth considering.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
An unbiased community would see diversity as an asset and foster collaboration, creativity and a shared vision of itself. Thatcommunity would also see the untapped talent and potential in all of its residents which when cultivated will benefit the entire city. To paraphrase Angela Glover Blackwell of Policy Link, equity is the superior growth model.

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Kristin Szakos
City Councilor

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?

(Photo by Ashley Twiggs)

Affirmative action is intended to level the access to success – not to guarantee success. As long as access is unequal – as long as African-Americans and Latinos have less inherited wealth, fewer college legacy placements, less property, and significantly higher levels of poverty than their white counterparts, affirmative action can help them gain access to better education and employment than those factors might otherwise allow. It doesn’t guarantee their success. History has shown that affirmative action has created opportunity and been a large part of the growth of the black middle class, highly educated and successful. Perhaps its greatest failure – small by comparison – is that it allows some folks to believe that people who have achieved success because they had access to an education or job through affirmative action didn’t earn their success.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?

I am constantly very aware of my race in Charlottesville.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?

I don’t really know. I know the university has a very good record of graduating its African-American students, and some excellent academic programs like the Carter G. Woodson Institute. I have also talked with African-American faculty in some departments who feel under-appreciated and unsupported.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?

I’m not sure I understand what this question means. If you are asking if the Dialogue on Race (not a government committee) can have a positive impact on how we deal with issues of race and racism in Charlottesville, I would argue that it already has. If you’re asking if it will solve racism, of course not. But we know that not dealing with these issues is the best way to guarantee that nothing changes; I’m proud that we are taking positive, proactive steps to address race and repair the damage caused by racism and race inequity in our community.

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial diversity?

Absolutely, but I think the way this has been accomplished in the past—by a small group of largely white party activists choosing who those representatives should be—has not contributed meaningfully toward developing broad leadership in the community as a whole. The advent of the Firehouse primary means that candidates need to campaign, and voters need to get out and vote to elect people they want to represent them. I think our most recent election is a wake-up call, and I believe that we’ll have great candidates in the future representing our diversity.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?

The city fails to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity in many ways, the most important of which, I would argue, is education. The achievement gap in our schools, the different rates of higher education and professional training by race, perpetuate patterns of economic division that parallel lines of race. We need to make sure that all children in our city have full access to educational enrichment and community support to reach their full potential, regardless of economic status or race. I think that the City Schools are making great strides in closing the gap, but we need to come together as a community to commit to our children in order to make it happen.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?

I have never heard this term before, so I don’t know. But the city’s most prominent and central statues and parks are dedicated to Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson; they and the Confederate soldier guarding the entrance to the courthouse were dedicated to dividing our nation in order to preserve the institution of slavery. I think some balance is in order if we are to approach anything like an unbiased community today.

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Dr. M. Rick Turner
President of the local chapter of the Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?
In her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness Michelle Alexander states, “The struggle to preserve affirmative action in higher education, and thus maintain diversity in the nation’s most elite colleges and universities, has consumed much of the attention and resources of the civil rights community and dominated racial justice discourse in the mainstream media, leading the general public to believe that affirmative action is the main battlefront in U.S. race relations – even as our prisons fill with black and brown men.”

(Photo by John Robinson)

As a beneficiary of affirmative action and a student of American history, I am an ardent believer in this policy. Affirmative action is not new. White males have always been the beneficiaries of affirmative action. The history of this country has always promoted racial preference –in the form of affirmative action for whites. Preferential treatment for whites is not only woven throughout the history of the U.S., but is also still very much in place. Whites typically ignore the embedded structure of racial preference that benefits them. This is not surprising.

I firmly believe as Reverend Jesse Jackson and others believe –that affirmative action for those who have been left behind and locked out, is justified on the premise that diversity is good for us as a society, not that diversity rectifies centuries of black Americans working for free for 400 plus years. As previously stated, for hundreds of years, white males have enjoyed more than 95% of the best jobs, the best housing, the best incomes, the best health care –whether they were suited or not. Nevertheless, when small steps are taken to level the playing field, the court determines that no inconvenience to white applicants is permissible.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?
I first came to Charlottesville in the position of Dean of the Office of African-American Affairs at the University of Virginia. This position placed me right in the center of race issues for 17 years. During my time at the university, I served as an advocate for African-American students, taught a course on the Sociology of the African-American Community, worked with students, parents and university colleagues to address various racial incidents and concerns. I also connected with the local African-American community to address various racial issues and became involved with the NAACP. Race has been a constant and prominent factor in my life on all levels.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
The University of Virginia, like most institutions of higher education was forced by the law of the land to change its discriminatory ways. By no means was this change a voluntary act of benevolence on the part of the university. Nevertheless, UVA has made some very significant progress in this regard –going on to become the leading public institution of higher education in the retention and graduation of black students. While the university has advanced various diversity initiatives throughout the years, there continues to be a glaring lack of diversity in its faculty and administration. Also of concern is the under-compensation of hourly wage employees—many of whom are African-American.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem? I firmly believe that a great deal can be accomplished by bringing together people who are committed to racial justice and equality, and by courageously addressing the issues which divide us as a community. I also acknowledge that no government agency or committee can change the tenets of our hearts. This kind of change must come from within; nevertheless, dialogue and direct action to address difficult social issues can definitely be the catalyst for this change.

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial diversity? Ideally, our elected representatives should reflect the people they represent. It’s important that our representatives are people who are committed to racial justice and equality for all of our citizens. While there is no guarantee that an individual who looks like me will be the best representative of my values and concerns, there is an expectation that the concerns of the African-American community will be best understood, articulated, and most effectively addressed by someone from that community.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity? We must never forget that Charlottesville was one of the only cities in the U.S. that closed its public schools rather than integrate. Remnants of this white supremacist attitude are still present in the fabric of this city –in its institutions, in its business community and in its citizenry. We sometimes get fooled because we have a black superintendent of schools, a black city manager. While these are certainly significant accomplishments—in the bigger picture, these positions mean very little when it comes to creating meaningful change in the quality of life for the majority of Charlottesville’s black community. The unfortunate truth is –the city has been going along with inequity for so long that blindness to fundamental injustice is embedded in its structure.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you? There is no such thing as an “unbiased community.”

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Martha Trujillo
Local Latino liaison

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?
I think that everyone deserves the same opportunities, and if you have the qualifications, then your ethnicity should not be a factor.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?
I have never personally felt discriminated against, but there have been times when people had an issue with my accent, but I just feel that they are ignorant about other cultures.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
I think that UVA works on encouraging diversity. One way is by offering tutoring to new immigrants for ESL and in learning the culture through their Madison House program. This program is not just for student volunteers, but also for members of the community to mentor new immigrant families.

 

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?
No. A committee can’t solve this. It is a cultural issue that starts with what young children learn about other ethnicities. It comes from parents, schools and the media.

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial diversity?
There could be more diversity, but there is a lack of participation of minorities. I think they should be encouraged to run for office. But if they don’t run, then how can they be elected?

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?
I encourage recent immigrants to learn English as soon as possible and to be independent and ask questions. There is always an answer, but if you don’t ask questions, then people will never know what you need. When people complain to me that they don’t have access to services, it is often because they did not tell anyone what they needed or did not ask for help until there is a crisis. People need to advocate for themselves and they need to work on learning what they need to succeed in this country.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
A community that provides equal opportunity to everyone. By opportunity I mean, people working to help themselves, not waiting for someone to help them. And those people should be treated equally.

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Raynell C. Stokes
Associate Principal at Albemarle High School

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?
The relevance of Affirmative Action in today’s world is still a catalyst for achieving equity and diversity in education which impacts every facet of society.

Affirmative Action brings diversity so students can see others’ perspectives and experience others’ points of view.

Proactive integration policies work when leaders are committed to recognizing the need for Affirmative Action and implementing a plan of action for equal access to resources and job opportunities.

The policies fail when leaders are no longer held accountable and responsible for implementing Affirmative Action.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?
Yes, there have been moments in Charlottesville that I have been aware of my race and my gender.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
Yes, UVA encourages racial diversity. Racial Diversity is reflected in the hiring of professional staff. Also, for several years, UVA has provided resources and programs in our schools and community from the Office of African- American Affairs and most recently, the Office of Equity and Diversity. Providing support and resources for quality programs that recognize and celebrate the contributions of African-Americans enrich the diversity and culture in the community.

Its research based initiatives have established partnerships in collaboration with Albemarle County Public Schools and Charlottesville City Public Schools to improve the literacy of disadvantaged students. UVA’s commitment to establish partnerships with other school divisions in the state to help students of color has been to their credit. For example, professional staff is working with Henry County Public Schools, Martinsville, Virginia to research representation of African- Americans students in the gifted program.

 
4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?
No, a local government committee on race can not solve what some people feel is a social problem.

It’s not just a social problem, it’s also an economic problem. It will take many stakeholders to solve the social and economic problems of our community. One organization that’s serves in this capacity that comprise of several local church congregations is "Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together", IMPACT. It’s many and collectively "one voice".

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial diversity?
Yes, the composition of our elected representatives should reflect the city’s racial diversity.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?
Charlottesville fails to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity in the areas of lack of affordable housing, education, unemployment—underemployment, or lack of job security, affordable childcare, and mental health to name a few.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
An unbiased community is one that provides social and economic justice for all regardless of race, creed, color, religion, and sexual orientation.

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Ronald Knight
Cover photo subject

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?
Affirmative action is still needed. We are doing pretty good in the country, but it’s not working very well in Charlottesville. We don’t have people of color in high-up positions, not in the police department, no teachers and social workers. A person of color can relate to another person of color.

Ronald Knight, 42, of Riverside Avenue, works part-time at the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. He believes Charlottesville’s race dialogue should include "regular folks" and says the black community is ready to talk. 

(Photo by Jackson Smith)

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?
I am more aware of my race when I am in my community where I grew up. There, it’s not a mixture of color, because it’s the African American part of town. There I feel it more. I don’t feel it much around town.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
In a way, I do. In a way, I don’t. I like UVA, it’s a good college, but in Charlottesville they need to open up more and encourage African American people to be involved. They need to do more to open up to African Americans, it’s better for the city. They need to hire more African American people in positions that can give back to the community. The African American community doesn’t have very many role models. Sometimes, people need encouragement.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?
Yes, because it’s needed. People with different objectives are needed. But it’s not about discrimination between black and white. It’s about discrimination against humanity.

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial diversity?
Yes, and not only black, but Hispanics and other minorities. If they don’t have a voice, who is going to listen? We need more homegrown elected officials; they know Charlottesville. We need somebody who grew up here and understands the community better. The public would relate better to somebody from Charlottesville.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?
It’s failing in Charlottesville and employment and the African American community. There is the Second Chance Act, a workforce program for ex-felons, they only have 5 people in the program, but there are a thousand more who don’t have jobs. To me, it failed in the equal access to opportunity.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
A community where we all get along and where there are the some opportunities for people of all colors. To me it’s a level playing field. We as citizens need to start doing better, too.

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James Brown
Charlottesville Sheriff

When I first got the email with these questions, I just thought to myself that my focus is on Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice, Public Safety, etc. but these issues about race and diversity are for the entire community and require diverse input. It is an uncomfortable topic for many, and I feel that some of the questions require more time than I have to answer. Some questions also seem to be looking for negative/pessimistic responses in how they are worded. I understand that the focus is local, but when I mentioned this survey to other community leaders I thought would have been recipients, they had no idea what I was talking about. However, since I was contacted, I decided to go ahead and respond as this is my community, my hometown, and I do care what happens here beyond what I do for a living. I hope the responses to the survey reflect the diversity that we do have in Charlottesville.

UCARE through the University of Virginia and the Dialogue on Race in Charlottesville City are already working on various issues regarding race. I was a facilitator with the Dialogue on Race last year, so although I was not publically involved as a representative for the Dialogue on Race Team, I have been involved with discussions. I feel that these questions are best answered in a forum where responses can be expanded, or a request for clarity can take place at that time, but I will attempt to address the questions in a brief manner based on my interpretation of the question.

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?
Affirmative Action can help to increase diversity where diversity is lacking. It can help get the best from more diverse groups of people and areas instead of being concentrated from one group or area. An example would be with college admissions. If two people had identical SAT scores, GPA’s, and similar activities, one could then look at how they rank amongst their peers from their schools. If a student had very limited resources and opportunities yet managed to be in the top 10% of their graduating class, whereas another student that had many resources and opportunities but only managed to be mid-pack of their graduating class, that could be an indicator of potential and drive/desire in favor of the first student. It may not always work out that way though because in other situations, it could cause a more qualified person to be passed over, but it again would come to prioritization.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?
I have always been aware of my race, and that is neither negative nor positive. I have been made “very aware” of my race outside of Charlottesville more than in Charlottesville. In Farmville, where I attended college, the public schools had been closed to keep from integrating. While working in the Dining Hall, I met some of the African-Americans that were students during that time that never graduated high school because there was no open public high school for them to attend. In Maryland, I had my car searched on the side of I-95, while a friend and I stood by talking with one Trooper while three others searched my car. Although a blonde-haired female driving a convertible went speeding by us and the Trooper in the median when we were passing by him, my friend and I were pulled over because the Trooper felt that I was “following too close.” Before he got behind my car I actually laughed and told my friend that he (Trooper) was going to get her. I was wrong. I was released with a warning. In Charlottesville, I had a lady lock her car door when I started to cross the street the summer after I returned from college. That always stuck in my mind, but things that have happened outside of Charlottesville are what I remember more. I spent a week in Longmont, Colorado where the population of African-Americans is around 300 out of over 80,000 which is less than half of 1%. In Jamaica/Hollis, Queens, you can spend the day running errands, banking, grocery shopping, going to shopping centers, restaurants, etc. and see only African-Americans or people of a Nationality with brown skin.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
Does UVA encourage racial diversity? In School Admissions? Hospital Admissions? Staffing? Faculty? Athletics? Like I stated earlier, these issues are at least community-wide issues. UVA is part of the community so they play a part but I am not going to try to analyze and single them out. I know they are looking at diversity issues with UCARE, so hopefully that will be fruitful.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?
Possibly. A committee can offer possible solutions to a social problem, but the community needs to embrace the solution in order to help solve the problem. This is where exposure and communication can help make the action successful. The government can create and enforce laws and regulations to control what people do; changing how and what they think is another story. I know I have been through numerous discussions on race in Charlottesville as far back as 1995 and I have met some good people through the discussions, but there have not really been any actions as a result of those discussions over the years. I do like to see action after discussion, so hopefully something can result from the recent Dialogue on Race that is beneficial.

5. Should the composition of our elected representatives reflect our city’s racial diversity?
Ideally, the population would be reflected across the board at all levels of government, Local, State, and Federal and on the boards and commissions. However, that does not always happen. As a result, I feel that the most important thing an elected representative can do is to be in touch with their constituents and do what is right. An elected male represents females. An elected 70-year old represents a 20-year old. An elected Catholic represents people of other religions. When people feel that they are not being heard by their elected representative, they rally to vote them out of office. If a race is not represented with a physical presence, that may be a call to really make sure your voice is heard and get involved with the process. This means communicating with your elected representatives, showing up to meetings, showing up vote, and even running for office. Just because someone looks like you, does not mean they will share your thoughts and ideas on how things should be. And if they do not look like you, that does not mean they are against your interests. Facts: We can look back at Du Bois and Booker T. Washington and the Atlanta Compromise to see a major difference in ideology amongst prominent African-Americans. Current day I can assure you that Michael Steele or Herman Cain do not share the same ideas for policy as President Obama. In regards to different races, slavery was not abolished and civil rights were not granted by a black majority Congress and black President, but these things happened. The representatives did what was right, so it is important to know where they stand on issues. There are various political parties and they all have people of various races. Those ideologies of their party are what they use to create policy and that is what results in the laws and regulations that affect day-to-day life. Know where they stand.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?
Equal access and opportunity to what? I would not say that Charlottesville fails so much as there is room for improvement, like a good number of communities. The cost of living in Charlottesville is high. Wages do not always match the cost of living which limits what people can do. Some also have to work more than one job which means even less time to spend involved in the community (PTO, boards, commissions, etc.) or doing things around their home such as helping their children with school work. Just because access and opportunities may exist does not mean they are always obtainable.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
I am not sure what an unbiased community would look like. I would think it would be a community where we do not have to keep discussing mistreatment of people and our various differences.

In conclusion:

These are my general thoughts on these issues, and I am open to discussion. I feel that a forum with everyone present, would give a more accurate reflection of the entire community and a chance to explain anything that warrants further explanation. I am not sure who else will even bother to respond to this survey, but I am sure there will be a difference of opinions not just amongst the responding community leaders, but also amongst the people reading the responses. As an elected official, I serve all people regardless of any differences we may have so my hope is to be able to help make what I consider a good little city, Charlottesville, better. I think there are many people of the same mindset.

If someone feels that they have been discriminated against because of their race that injustice needs to be addressed. There are multiple organizations where they can file a complaint depending on the service/right being denied. They can always go direct with the company/business/agency, but the NAACP, Legal Aid Society, Virginia Human Rights Council, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Housing and Urban Development are just some of the other agencies where a complaint can be filed. All of the community leaders I know will gladly help steer someone to the correct agency to file a report. Then the complainant needs to follow-up on their complaint.

When we have full representation of the community at the table, we can really get down to the business of dealing with race issues and diversity. Until then, my advice to all people (taking into consideration laws and regulations, common decency and respect) is to go where you want to go and do what you want to do. If someone has a problem with you being somewhere or doing something because of your race, let that be THEIR problem not yours. If someone has discriminated against you based on your race, age, gender, religion, etc., report it and do something about it. Thank you.

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John Whitehead
Founder of the Rutherford Institute

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?
History always informs the present moment. Thus, the cultural memory of slavery and racism will always be with us. That said, there have been many improvements in race relations over the years. The advances brought about by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement are to be celebrated by all Americans of all colors.

Yet even with the historic election of a black president, racism still exists in this country. While it is worthwhile to consider issues of diversity in certain situations, such as in college applications, it is not apparent that proactive integration policies enforced by law are the clear solution. Part of the learning experience should include getting to know people of other cultures, races, and belief systems. However, attempting to maintain certain quotas or blocking highly qualified applicants in favor of much less qualified applicants of a desired race goes against the spirit of meritocracy which is a founding component of society. The race factor will have to be balanced amongst a variety of other factors.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?
It’s hard not to be aware of one’s race. Whether watching the news or walking down the street, there is always a consciousness about racial distinctions. However, even more than the differences in race, what I find striking are the common denominators that traverse racial divides. Indeed, the way things are going with our government and the economy, there is definitely more that unites us than divides us, if only we could recognize that and work together.

(File photo)

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
As with most things, this seems to be a work in progress. The University has programs and policies that promote diversity, including classes that explore issues of race in society, history, and politics. However, there remains a clear economic divide that inevitably gives rise to a racial divide. For example, when I spoke at a University-related luncheon not long ago, I couldn’t help but notice that while the attendees were largely affluent and white, the serving staff were all people of color.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?
No. It’s ludicrous to even think that the government can change a person’s view on race simply by imposing economic sanctions on them. Although I believe racism is wrong, being racist isn’t illegal. After all, our Constitution still guarantees the right to the freedom of expression and association. Now, if a business owner were found to be discriminating in employment based upon race or some other arbitrary factor, that’s a matter for the EEOC and the courts. But the government should not have a hand in penalizing people who are racist. That can only give rise to greater problems, including fostering hate.

5. Should the composition of our elected representatives reflect our city’s racial diversity?
The composition of our elected representatives should reflect the desires of the voters—that’s how a democracy works. If a predominantly white town wants to elect black city council members, or a predominantly black town wants to elect white city council members, that should be their prerogative. The emphasis should be on ensuring that elections are open, free and fair—not in manufacturing the racial composition of elected officials.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?
It’s fairly obvious if one walks through the Downtown Mall that not all of Charlottesville’s residents are reaping the benefits of the city’s wealth. While there may be a number of Charlottesville’s residents who are concerned about issues of equal access and opportunity, it’s not apparent how much effort is really being put into rectifying the problems of inequality. What’s the answer? I’m not sure, but it probably involves people volunteering, taking care of those in need, and other community efforts to make sure Charlottesville is taking care of all of its citizens.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
An “unbiased community” is not a community devoid of bias, but a community in which all citizens are acutely aware of their biases and do their best to mitigate them by promoting the welfare of all, regardless of skin color.

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Toan Nguyen
Owner of C’ville Coffee

(Photo by Ashley Twiggs)

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?

In today’s world, affirmative action is very important because there is so much more competition in schools, the workplace, and in the marketplace. Increased competition means that people with more means can afford tutors and test preparation to get entry into better schools; it means that people of wealth and influence can obtain employment for themselves and their children much easier than those without connections; it means that peoplewith money or access to money can start companies much easier and on a larger scale. Affirmative action hasworked and has brought a whole generation of minorities to the middle class. However, that middle class is shrinking and the pressure of the recession has been brutal on those minorities who are not in the middle class. Hence, affirmative action is as relevant as ever.

Proactive integration policies work when they are embraced by people at every level of an organization. This takes leadership from the very top to educate the positive outcome of a policy, articulate the vision of a policy, and involve everyone at every level in making sure the policies are integrated into the culture.

Proactive integration policies fail when they are forced by legislation or top management without proper education and incentive.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?

I remember vividly my first day as a student at the Darden Business School in August 1992. I walked into the large foyer where faculty and students meet together for the first time and I was immediately struck by the lack of diversity within the group. I felt so out of place that I promptly left the hall because I did not feel like I belonged there. I believe that in 1992 the minority and foreign student population at UVA was only 4%. Today, I believe that it is over 20%. Walking around Darden now, I see that the student population is so much more diverse than 20 years ago.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?

UVA has made great strides in encouraging racial diversity. Now as I walk around Darden and the Main Grounds, I see that the student population is so much more diverse than 20 years ago. I believe that this is the legacy of ex-President John Casteen who made a commitment to encouraging racial diversity.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?
Local government committees are the true catalyst of change in a community. Such committees truly understand the history, needs, and make-up of the locality and therefore can be effective in bringing change. Ideally, it is staffed with people from the community with ties and relationships to the citizens of that community. I have personally been moved to action by the work of the Dialogue on Race Committee, which is a local government committee. As a result of my inspiration by the work of this this committee, I have spearheaded, with the assistance of 55 other individuals, a micro-lending program, Community Investment Collaborative (CIC), to assist minorities in starting businesses in Charlottesville. CIC will provide the crucial seed funding to people who cannot access funding through banks or credit cards to start business. This is a good example of how local government committees can contribute to solutions to social problems.

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial diversity?
Absolutely. The composition of our elected representatives should reflect our city’s racial diversity.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?

Economic freedom is the ultimate freedom in a free society and it can be attained through a lifetime of financial planning, obtaining a good education so one can have a good job, or being entrepreneurial. Charlottesville is agreat city for retirees, doctors, lawyers, professors, or other professionals, and is a dynamic entrepreneurial city for those who have the access to capital and connections. If a person does not have the good fortune to have a good education, being an entrepreneur is a good means of obtaining financial security.

However, access to capital is a crucial component in becoming an entrepreneur and currently, minorities without college degrees have a very difficult time obtaining financing in Charlottesville. For this very reason, CIC was formed.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
“Unbiased community” means a community that grants access to opportunities to everyone, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, sexual preferences, or economic or social status.

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Ty Cooper
Sure Shot Events

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?
The relevance to many of affirmative action in today’s world unfortunately seems to be weakening. What is sad is that individuals who had benefited from affirmative action such as Judge Thomas is on a quest to end it for those whom may need this mandate. Once this nation reflects and fulfill the duties of a nation of communities then affirmative action is needed to assist in the objectives of providing a fair and unbiased landscape. The playing field needs to be leveled when this nation can step away from affirmative action and other government implementations of protecting the United States Constitution.

(Photo by Chris Scott)

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?As described above proactive integrations policies work effectively but often fail when the necessary follow-through is not implemented. Government often fail to stay abreast on the results of certain policies and its lack of review and accountability presents unreliable data which is later skewed in a way to serve "the hot agenda of the day."

I am aware of my race on a daily basis in Charlottesville. On the four organization boards that I serve, I am the only black male serving in that capacity. I live Downtown, a block off of the Downtown Mall and I have no black neighbors. I serve as an integral component of the arts community here in Charlottesville and my goal is to promote cultural diversity so I deal with this objective everyday of my life in Charlottesville. The United Nations of Comedy Tour as well as the National Stand-Up Comedy Monthly Series are efforts that I created to promote diversity solely in the Downtown area. it is about bringing people of different ethnicities and those of different socio-economic backgrounds together to enjoy one another’s culture. I recently promoted the Fifth Annual Best of Both Worlds Dance and Step Competition at the Paramount Theater and witnessed the most diverse audience I have seen at this event in five years. I usually host this event at the M.L.K. Jr. Performing Arts Center but my platform of promoting diversity compelled me to change the venue and take on the increased financial risk. The Paramount Theater was supportive in the effort and my goal was achieved.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
I do not have any thoughts of UVA’s progressiveness of lack thereof regarding racial diversity. I do know that the gentleman they had hired to head diversity a couple of years ago by the name Dr. Harvey was a waste of state money. He had accomplished nothing and made no impact whatsoever. I have no idea what they are doing at this time. They have always promoted separatism from the community the moment freshmen students touch the ground on orientation day.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?
A local government committee on race can drastically impact what people see as a social problem by addressing the issue in a public forum. Nothing gets resolved by ignoring the issue and community members continue living in their respective bubbles as if a social problem doesn’t exist. A government committee on race has the power to bring community members together to address the concerns that exist socially and explore the opportunities to make the necessary compromises community wide to resolve the problem. A committee power is limited because the end result of prosperity will only be the result of the community coming together to achieve a goal. The local government committee will serve as the vehicle but the people of the community has to play the role as the fuel.

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial diversity?
The idea of having elected officials reflect the diversity make-up of the city is an ideal situation, but it is not a guarantee that this will necessarily benefit the counterparts that these officials resemble. We should draw people from the community to run for elected offices, but it is the communities’ responsibilities to push upward qualified individuals with a passion for serving. The goal should be to make these elected officials accountable for their promises and their responsibilities more so than to assure they resemble the diversity of its community members.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?
Charlottesville has failed in the past of providing "equal opportunity and access" by stripping the empowerment of a group of its community members in the Vinegar Hill district by way of redevelopment and placing these individuals into housing projects to be forgotten about for decades. Stripping them of their businesses, practices, home ownership, and sense of dignity. Empowerment is the key to self-sustainment. A community is recreated by individuals who take care of one another but this may only be attained when one can take care of themselves. Charlottesville has to send the hands of time backwards and then move forward. Empower the community members with quality education and training for self-employment.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
An "unbiased community" is the same as a "fairy tale". It is an idea that we as individuals do not reference from a particular context. I will add to this statement by stating that a community should operate as the word "community" is defined, "a group of men and women leading a common life according to a rule". This rule should provide the safeguard of equal opportunity for all of its community members. This equal opportunity will resemble what most would reference as an "unbiased community". If these rules can truly be adhered to by its members then the term "EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL" will be what an unbiased community means to me.

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Walker Heinecke
UVA Professor and member of the Dialogue on Race Policy Action team

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?
Affirmative Action laws are very relevant to today’s world. Remember today’s world reflects the decisions and actions of the past. The playing field is not level for non-dominant minority groups. We want diversity and if this occurred naturally without intervention by the forces of personal and institutional racism we would not need Affirmative Action laws-but racism exists so we do need them. These laws work when they attend to the spirit of the law and they fail when they are approached only from the letter of the law by people looking for ways to undo them. With all their imperfections we are better off with them than without them. Personally as a white, middle class male, I don’t mind giving up some of my privilege for the sake of social equity. We are all better off when everyone in society, especially those suffering from historical discrimination are treated fairly.

We know that even wealthy people are better off psychologically when they live in places where the wealth is distributed equally and the disparites between wealthy and poor are small. Unfortunately, we know from a recent Pro Publica Study that Charlottesville-Albemarle is one of the worst places in the countries in terms of the gross disparities between wealth and poor.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race? The minute I arrived from California 15 years ago. I saw a town divided and separated by race and class. I saw a lot of very unhappy and oppressed minorities who seemed to be denied a seat at the table. People seemed both sad and angry.

I went to decision making meetings and didn’t see many minority folks at the table and still don’t. I remember my wife and I making friends with an African-American couple and feeling like they were afraid to get too close because of the community context.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not? Yes and No. The best person to ask about this is Prof. Frank Dukes who leads up the University and Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE). They have a new report on this issue that can be found at: http://pages.shanti.virginia.edu/ucare/. It is clear from that report the University has a ways to go on this issue. Dr. Rick Turner did a great job building the Office of African-American Affairs. Dr. Maurice Apprey is very capable at continuing this mission. UVA has one of the highest persistence and graduation rates for African-Americans in the Country. Dr. Marcus Martin is very capable and is a leader in attending to Diversity on Grounds. On the other hand, there is only so much these folks can do. There needs to be leadership from the BOV and the President’s office and the Deans. Many of have high hopes for our new President in this regard and it looks like she is very attentive to these issues. I don’t see at university-wide requirements that undergraduates take a course that directly pertains to racial diversity in a direct and consistent manner and given the number of racial incidents that have occurred just while I have lived in town, it seems like they would have this in place by now. We need to ask minority workers who are employed by contractors working for the university how they feel about their treatment along racial lines to get the real answer to this question.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?
Absolutely. Racism is at once a political, economic, spiritual, interpersonal, individual, and institutional problem. If you look at the proposal for the Charlottesville Commission on Human Rights, Diversity, and Race Relations it attends to both the interpersonal or social causes of racism as well as the institutional causes of racism. The Commission calls for the passage of local anti-discrimination ordinances and the enabling of a Commission with funding, staffing, and teeth to enforce violations of these ordinances when they occur. Charlottesville’s long history of complex race relations leads to unresolved racial tensions in our community today. Because of slavery, massive resistance with the closing of Charlottesville’s white public schools, massive removal of Black homes and businesses from Vinegar Hill during urban renewal, problems of interpersonal and institutional racism continue to plague our community.

The racial disparities have been documented by two recent reports on economic disparities and disparities in juvenile justice, child welfare, physical health, and mental health (See Schuyler, R. & Hannan, M. (2011). A Declaration of Independence: Family Self‐Sufficiency in Charlottesville Virginia. Report to Greater Charlottesville Development Corporation. Charlottesville, VA: Author & Charlottesville/Albemarle Commission on Youth and Families (2011). Task Force on Race Disparities and Disproportionality in Youth Services, Final Report, May, 2011. Charlottesville, VA. Author.] . In the context of Virginia’s and Charlottesville’s abysmal record on race relations (Jefferson’s notes on Virginia-The source of American racist philosophy,200 years of slavery, decades of Jim Crow Laws, Plessy vs. Ferguson, Massive resistance, Vinegar Hill, invisible hispanic population, etc…), the establishment of the Human Rights Commission would give real people who suffer from discrimination a place to go for recourse thus improving their lives.

More than that it signals to the entire minority community, that Charlottesville City really cares about them and their historical plight-that could re-engage disenfranchised and skeptical minorities to participate in a genuine process of restoration. Anglos often don’t even see their privilege and how it contributes to the problem of racism, even well-meaning white people like me. What some self-interested Anglo people don’t seem to get is that everything improves for everybody when we attend to the needs of discriminated minorities. Everyone is happier, the quality of life for everyone goes up. The best book on this is Wilson and Pickett’s The Spirit Level. They offer statistical data that proves when the most neglected sectors of society are attended to in a caring way, everyone, even those at the top, benefit from a psychological and health perspective. Racism is toxic for everyone even the folks at the top.

Racism will not go away by holding hands and praying (although we should be doing that too and why are our churches so segregated?). The Dialogue on Race sponsored important study circles to bring people together to talk about these problems. In many cases we were preaching to the choir and need to get other people to that table. The Commission attends to both social efforts to ameliorate racism and improve racial equity but it also offers some policy process to improve our current situation. We need more opportunities to dialogue and discuss, such a process must become a permanent fixture of our community, the Commission will do this. A city Commission will keep these issues in the forefront of our thinking until they are solved over time.

5. Should the composition of our local government reflect our city’s racial diversity? One would hope so. When we moved to an elected school board the school board became more diverse than it had been under the appointed process and this is a good thing. If our political system was not constrained by institutional racism, we might see two, three even four members from different minority groups in town on Council. We would certainly see much better representation on key decision making bodies elected and appointed, it would be an indicator that we have made some progress in reversing our local history of racism. How can potential candidates for office arise when we don’t make concerted efforts to include minorities in our appointments to committees and commissions, especially young people? We should be encouraging young peole to go to the Community Leadership program and the Sorenson Institute programs. The City should make an effort to pay the fees for young minorities to attend these programs.

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?
When decision makers start to initiate committees and commissions for major initiatives, they just forget to think about getting minority voices at those tables from the beginning. When people are cut out of the authentic decision making process they check out and give up hope. We fail when our unemployment rate or our criminal conviction rates are disproportionate along racial lines; When people who are discriminated against because of their race don’t have any real, local accessible recourse.

We fail when our drop outs or standard SOL diplomas are disproportionate by race.
We fail when our students are not exposed to the real history of race relations in town while in our public schools. We fail when city projects do not take into account the impact they might have on minority populations. We fail when we don’t provide all city employees and non-profit workers with cultural sensitivity training.

We fail when economic disparities can be identified along racial lines.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
An unbiased community is one in which everyone is aware of their biases and privilege based on American culture and thinks about that before speaking or acting. An unbiased community means that when I show up to a Community wide planning meeting there are more than zero folks of color in the room. An unbiased community thinks about all its actions with the thought: have we checked our own bias out before formulating this or that committee or commission?” An unbiased community looks like a lot of different ethnicities and classes of people gathering together in our social spaces. It looks like a big fun party on race unity day in the City. An unbiased community looks like: "….the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood….I have a dream that … children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Willa Neale
Member of the City of Charlottesville School Board

Our schools should give every student the opportunity to discover and reach his/her potential. Our schools are the gateway to our community for children as they learn to deal with people and environments outside of their homes. This is why Charlottesville City Schools are so attractive—not only do they prepare children academically but our students are exposed to other students, teachers and staff who are different than they are. Such exposure is an integral part to a child’s education and it’s one I am proud to be part of in Charlottesville.

We are fortunate to have a diverse school division. That’s one of the reasons families like mine move into the city and others send students from out of district. I believe we want a staff that largely mirrors the students it serves. But more important than statistics is the environment at our schools. We ought to ask first and foremost how our students and employees perform and feel. If our kids come to school welcomed and nurtured by the teachers and other staff, they will be ready to learn and do their best, regardless of race or ethnicity. And if our best teachers feel appreciated and want to stay in and advance through our system, and are convinced that they can do so regardless of race, then that’s another measure of our success.

With the benefits of a diverse community come challenges. As a school community, we must continually work on ways to engage all parts of our community. Bringing theschools out into the community is one way. Jim Kyner, the principal at Greenbrier Elementary, obtained, at no charge to the school, an apartment in a large complex where many of his school’s students live (most of whom are of a racial, ethnic or national origin that makes them minority students). That apartment hosts after school study sessions, parent teacher meetings, and other community outreach. That’s a great example of innovative thinking that engages families, schools, and local businesses. The school, families, students and the apartment complex all benefitted from this great idea.

An “unbiased community” in the schools is one in which we look at each child as an individual and equip them with the academic tools needed to grow intellectually and succeed professionally, but also the social skills that help shape our next generation of workers, friends and family.

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Ned Michie
Member of the City of Charlottesville School Board

1. What is the relevance of affirmative action in today’s world? In what ways do proactive integration policies work and in what ways do they fail?
I think that it makes sense for employers and universities to continue to consider race and other demographic factors as one of many factors in hiring/admissions decisions among equally well qualified candidates—but obviously only to the extent allowed by law. We live in an increasingly diverse country, and I think we all benefit from interacting with—and learning from—people with different backgrounds and experiences from ours. Moreover, I think from a societal standpoint it is very important for there to be visible role models for people of all backgrounds, to inspire and lead others toward success. I think putting people of different backgrounds together in a workplace or university obviously cannot make people like each other or even spend any real time getting to know each other, because it seems to be human nature to usually seek out what’s most comfortable for ourselves rather than pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone. Nevertheless, I think being in proximity to each other at least creates the conditions most likely to lead to interaction, understanding, learning from each other, and indeed enjoying each other’s similarities and differences.

2. Was there ever a moment in Charlottesville when you were very aware of your race?
There have been plenty of such moments growing up in a progressive household in Charlottesville, going to the public schools, and talking about the issues of the day. I guess the most notable public type of instances happened my first year on the School Board, which coincided with Scottie Griffin’s first and only year as our school division’s superintendent. As anyone around during the time knows, that became a terribly racially-charged and divisive time.

3. Does UVA encourage racial diversity? Why? Why not?
I’m not connected enough with UVa to have an informed opinion about this, but from an outside perspective, it seems they have demonstrated a commitment to diversity and tolerance.

4. Can a local government committee on race solve what some people feel is a social problem?
I think we unquestionably continue to have racial tensions in Charlottesville. We also clearly continue to have unequal outcomes, by race, in both economic success and educational success. There is no doubt in my mind that the major cause of this disparity is the fact that African-Americans were intentionally and institutionally kept from success for hundreds of years. There was no way the effects of discrimination were going to disappear within a few generations of finally passing legislation to outlaw institutional discrimination. There are plenty of people still around who were held back from success by legal, institutional racism—and as a result of our long history of institutional racism, there are not enough role models of success out there for young African-Americans, which further compounds and extends the problem. Moreover, racial attitudes within the hearts of people did not change on the day anti-discrimination legislation was passed, and there are certainly people today who continue to be racially biased. There also continue to be examples of institutional racism that appear in court reports and media reports.

Consequently, I think we as a society continue to need institutions to guard against racism, and having a local committee with a defined set of goals may make sense. I have significant reservations, however, about the idea of a $200,000-$300,000 permanent commission. The idea to have such a commission is certainly the kind of proposal that it is one’s gut reaction to jump on board with—and indeed to worry that any questioning of its wisdom would make you a bad, non-progressive, head-in-the-sand type person. Nevertheless, if I were on City Council I would want to understand more about why the City needs to spend a few hundred thousand a year to handle what seem to be primarily job discrimination and housing discrimination claims, when there are two existing agencies in town—the EEOC on Rio Road and the Piedmont Housing Alliance, respectively—that already handle such claims. I would need significant clarification of the role such a commission would play, and I would need some convincing that it makes sense to develop a parallel duplicative local system rather than to promote better connections to and use of the existing agencies’ services, if needed. As part of the consideration, I would want to hear the thoughts of the leaders of the existing agencies. If it is believed that there is some class of employment and housing discrimination cases that cannot be handled by the existing agencies and under existing state and federal laws, then it still seems such a commission (and the new local ordinance) should be set up just for those cases and not duplicate what we have.

If it is true that there are already good mechanisms in place to address employment and housing discrimination claims, but we need a group spreading the word about them and doing informal mediation and advocacy in favor of diversity and against discrimination, then it seems as if that could potentially be handled by a City Council-appointed board such as the many that City Council has. We clearly have lots of people in this community interested in this issue who would be willing to serve. I don’t have a problem with available public money being spent on the public good, and I like Charlottesville to be on the leading edge of progress, but resources are limited (particularly now), and it is worth noting that the cities cited in the draft proposal I have seen—which have paid staff (Huntsville, AL; Washington, DC; Albuquerque, NM; and Fairfax, VA)—are all much larger cities than ours (as are some of the other VA localities cited). So I would be interested to know what the other Virginia communities our size are doing in the way of such commissions.

To walk further out onto the limb of questioning a seemingly good idea—I think such a group (particularly if it is a couple-hundred-thousand-a-year commission) should be set up for some stated period of time, as is the Voting Rights Act (e.g., five or ten years). It of course could be renewed, but to set it up as a permanent local government agency on the front end seems awfully pessimistic that we will never achieve fair treatment of people in our locality. History certainly indicates that humans almost instinctively bond to groups they see as their own and mistrust others not in their group, but that still doesn’t mean people won’t act fairly, or that as civilization moves forward we will always need a few-hundred-thousand-a-year local agency on the issue. History also indicates that without a sunset clause, government agencies don’t ever go away.

I don’t want any employers in our town to engage in illegal discrimination, and we want to hold accountable any who might do so. At the same time, however, we don’t want employers to leave town or locate elsewhere because they fear potentially having to deal with/tangle with an overly aggressive commission anytime they let a minority person go or choose to promote a non-minority person over a minority person. On the whole—and as illuminated by the Orange Dot report—the thing I think that is really going to alleviate the plight of the poor in our community the most in this century (regardless of race, etc.) is not resolutions about the wrongs of past, or plaques, or committees, or commissions focused on discrimination. (I’m not suggesting that these activities aren’t good and proper, also.) But instead, what is going to create by far the most change is providing those in poverty with good education, good job opportunities, and good role models in their families, neighborhoods, communities, and beyond. So if limited resources force us to choose, I would rather see money go toward things like 3-year-old preschool, creating quality child care, parenting classes, adult education, job training, job creation ventures, Intranet access for the poor, and using best practices models to redevelop the public housing.

So, again, the bottom line for me, I guess, is that I think this is a good proposal for City Council to consider, and hats off to those who have put the time in to put it together. But I think it will take significant time and real deliberation to reach the right decision.

5. Should the composition of our elected representatives reflect our city’s racial diversity?
I think you certainly do not have to be a member of any minority to look out for every type of minority. Some of the greatest advancements for minorities have been led by non-minority politicians, and indeed probably every significant change in the laws to prevent discrimination, whether by the courts or legislative bodies, have happened only with the contributions (of votes and decisions) of non-minorities. Nevertheless, as mentioned in response to question #1, I think diversity is a positive, and in the political realm it also helps to have people see someone like them in a position of power who they may feel represent their interests (even though the reality may be that someone who doesn’t look like them is actually representing their interest more).

6. Where does Charlottesville fail to deliver on the ideals of equal access and opportunity?
I think we are blessed to live in a progressive community where the vast majority of the people want social justice. The community is filled with non-profits and agencies aimed at helping out those who are less fortunate in our community. Moreover, it seems to me that our political party leaders go out of their way to recruit minority candidates for elected leadership positions, and our electorate is clearly very comfortable electing minorities. We also, as a community, have proven that we value the hiring of minorities for our most important jobs and positions, and my feeling is that those hiring for our more routine government jobs are very open to and indeed happy to hire minorities (Indeed, both the City and the City Schools have had human resource directors who are minorities). As a community, we spend a lot of our tax dollars on our public schools and social services to try to lift people out of poverty and provide nice parks and public facilities throughout the City. From the progressive nature of our community and the faces that I see at local establishments, I also at least get the sense that our local private employers (including the ones I personally know) are very open to hiring anyone they view as qualified, regardless of race. So, on the whole, I think Charlottesville gets good marks on social justice.

Nevertheless, we do still have the reality of a wide disparity in educational and economic success between blacks and whites, which, as I said before, is a problem that I view as having been created by hundreds of years of intentional repression. This repression has caused the uneven playing field that exists today. Over the decades, the “haves” have developed ties to employers, and family wealth helps with paying for higher education and for enriching experiences. Wealth also creates more wealth through investments and/or starting businesses. Families with parents who had a good education (thanks at least in part to family wealth) generally have word-rich environments that help greatly with the next generation’s all-important early education. The “haves” are more likely to live in houses that have Internet connections and quiet places for kids to do their homework; they’re less likely to live in neighborhoods with high crime and bad influences that can lead kids to make mistakes that can haunt them for the rest of their lives. It is going to take time and a multi-faceted approach before we truly have a level playing field.

7. What does an “unbiased community” mean to you?
I think it is essentially one where decisions are simply not based on race (or other superficial factors), and people are treated fairly. Nevertheless, as stated above, in the present time—given (1) the unlevel playing field on which we find ourselves, (2) the fact that racism and misunderstanding continue to exist, and (3) the growing multicultural/multiracial community we live in—I hope those in position to hire and in admissions offices seek to enhance diversity of all kinds, in their spheres of influence, within the bounds of the law.

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