Reactions from a few people to the local Black Lives Matter chapter’s summer launch indicates that, unfortunately, residue of racism still exists in Columbus.
Organizer Brittany King said that local social media posts about the group have occasionally used racial slurs in private messages to the group or on its Facebook page, indicators that there is still more work that needs to be done to eliminate a racial divide.
What’s notable, and likely unknown by many, is that the Black Lives Matter of Columbus chapter, whose aim is to affirm equality and justice for blacks across a wide spectrum of society, actually has large representation from whites in the community. At early chapter meetings, the majority of attendees have been white.
The work by this start-up group as well as another, Showing Up for Racial Justice, only build on the long-established foundation in Columbus for racial equality and understanding. The creation of the Columbus Human Rights Commission in the early 1960s helped establish that footing, and later it was strengthened by the creation of the Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization in 2009.
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) sprung from a three-day race relations event that the African American Pastors Alliance conducted in August 2015. One of the event’s attendees, Amoret Heise, who is white, started SURJ to help connect people to local racial justice organizations and promote collaboration. The new SURJ chapter has already worked with the local Black Lives Matter chapter to show and have an open dialogue about a movie, “The Color of Fear,” when it was shown in Columbus.
The world will never be perfect, but Columbus has a strong track record of continuing to make it a better place for all people. The organic growth of groups focused on addressing racial, cultural and religious issues and understanding is a positive sign for the community.