Try a little openness

By Ron O’Clair

Department of Justice visits Worcester to hold community meetings on race

DOJ Discussion #2

The participants of the discussion broke off into groups of about a dozen each and went to different areas of the Auditorium at Quinsugamond Community College and even into private rooms to hold discussions based on guidelines prearranged by the City of Worcester Human Rights Commission.

I went into the #8 group which was determined by having been given a random number upon signing in from 1 -12. Each person signing in got a number. After having heard a presentation from the City of Worcester about how the local government works, we all broke off into the separate areas to begin the discussions.

The group I was in had some notable Worcester figures in it, including Dr. Reese the Assistant Principal of Doherty High School, Ronald Scott, Charles E. Scott’s son, and arriving late, a woman who used to be a teacher in the public schools system.

When it came time for the discussion part and the facilitator asked if anyone wanted to say anything, everyone looked around but no one spoke.

I held up my hand and started the discussion off. My contribution was all done, and other people took turns. It was at this point that the retired school teacher entered the room, so she had no idea of anything that I said.

Nearly everyone else in the room had a chance to share their thoughts, and then the lady monopolized the conversation, interjecting “just three more points” when other people wanted to talk. In fact one person who attended sent an email to complain about not having had a chance to talk, blaming the woman who snubbed me for it.

There was a lengthy pause before I started the discussion, he or she had the opportunity to speak then, but chose not to avail themselves of it.

I listened to all she had to say: it was basically a diatribe about prejudice against students of color in the school system, although she mentioned that she was taught as the only black child in a Catholic Schools system. She also mentioned about the Boards and Commissions available for the City of Worcester and about what she perceived as prejudice there also. I took an opportunity to relate that I also had applied for a couple of spots on City of Worcester Boards and Commissions and had been rejected. She flippantly suggested that I was not worthy for those positions with her comment about what I had to say.

I listened to everything she said and was initially impressed enough by what she said that at the end of the discussion period and before we all returned to the Auditorium to hear a recap of the 12 different discussions, I reached out my hand to shake hers.

She declined my offer of a handshake with a look of contempt spread across her features.

I was taken aback a bit, but I figured that perhaps she is one of those people that just do not like physical contact and decline hands offered in friendship.

That was then … after the meeting was breaking up in the Auditorium, I happened to be near that same woman as she was making her way up the aisle and out of the Auditorium. Every single person of color that approached that woman with an offer to shake her hand was met with warmness and affection by the woman. Some people even got hugs.

I was stunned.

I could not help but think that that woman intentionally snubbed me based upon the color of my skin!

What other reason could there have been?

I am an outgoing individual who was the only person in the group # 8 that was involved in the City of Worcester political process, as I am a Candidate for City Councilor At-Large, and I have made it a habit to befriend all people regardless of their ethnicity as I have always done, and I have to tell you, the way that woman snubbed me hurt me.

It seemed to me that she felt that I was beneath her, due to my having been born with “white privilege”!

Our group had a representative of the daily come in and take pictures, and no one made a protest about it. Another group actually was offended that a representative of the press attended their group, the group led by Professor Sonya Conner who actually brought up that their group did not like the media being there when it was her turn to speak from the podium, City Councilor Konstantina Lukes was in that group. Councilor Phil Palmieri was in another group, and Councilor Sarai Rivera was in yet another, as was City Councilor At-Large Morris Bergman. There were a lot of City Councilor and Candidates for City Council in attendance, I saw Candidate Krystian King there as well.

I was there not as a representative for the InCity Times but as a private citizen and a City Councilor At-Large Candidate, and I did not ask, nor take any photos of the private meeting group. Though I certainly could have.

All in all, I thought that it was a good meeting of the minds to help address legitimate concerns about racism here in Worcester and thought that a lot of valid points were brought up in the discussion that our group had, even by the woman who then snubbed me.

Discourse is a valuable tool in any negotiation, and a spirit of working together has a much better chance of getting results than to have people act the fool, riot, loot and burn.

I think these talks and the ones scheduled to yet take place will help the people find constructive ways to eliminate racism in our communities and ensure equal and fair treatment of all citizens regardless of race.

At least, that is what I hope comes of these talks.

Mr. Ronald L. O’Clair, Candidate for City Councilor At-Large, Worcester. Massachusetts.

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