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Daily Progress Town Hall panelists urge difficult conversation

Listening, telling and having empathy and curiosity would go a long way to healing the wounds that linger in Charlottesville and across the nation, panelists of a Daily Progress Town Hall said Thursday night.

When asked by Charlottesville Media Group Eric Mayberry what it would take to bring people together, Dan Schutte of CBS 19 had a ready answer: listening.

“Am I a safe place for people to tell me things so that I can be an effective listener?” asked Schutte. He also quickly added that, as a journalist, he believes that telling the stories of people is just as important.

Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook said it is essential to “get the right people into the room.” Dr. Andrea Douglas, executive director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, added that it’s difficult to make progress with regard to racial divides because “our narratives are so incomplete.

“A nation that in and of itself won’t tell its true history” will continue to have a problem unless the experiences of all people are considered.”

“My story is not your story,” she said.

Dr. Robin Smith, host of the The Dr. Robin Show on Sirius XM Channel 126, added that empathy and curiosity are also important, as well as learning to be uncomfortable with having difficult conversations.

The panel started out talking about the breakdowns in policing that occurred on Aug. 11 and 12. Douglas reminded the listeners and other panelists that police “were warned.”

“The city knew that the UVa police officers didn’t get the memo somehow,” Snook said.

Schutte, and news director at WCAV, covered the consequences.

“It was just chaos,” he said. “You could see the police, and they were standing back.”

That led Smith to question what occurs in the unconscious mind as it makes decisions. Why did people not get the memos, she asked.

“If that gathering had been of Black people, those messages would have been delivered,” she said.

Schutte said that at one point he was happy to see the National Guard, but later he realized that those were the member of the Red Neck Revolt.

Schutte said that one lesson learned is that “we have to take these warnings seriously.”

A key take-away from the discussion was that difficult discussions will have to become acceptable if the nation is to move beyond the racial divide that has been worsened over the past several years as radical white supremacists have made clear they are intent on protecting their interests.

“Whether we like it or not, we share this planet together,” Mayberry said.


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