Local leaders look at race relations

July 09, 2016 06:14 PM

This week's national news weighs heavily on many in the Capital Region – including longtime observers of race relations.

"There's a lot of people that refuse to face the fact that there is a problem,” said Pastor David Traynham of New Horizons Christian Church in Albany as he prepares for his Sunday service. He refuses to look away from the past few days.

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"The message is that it's not all white people that are our problem, it's not all policemen that are our problem but it is also not all African-Americans that's the problem,” Traynham said. “The problem is, at times, racism, the problem is at times ignorance and the problem is at times fear."

He sent a letter to fellow area clergy and leaders urging them to address killings of black men in St. Paul, MN and Baton Rouge, LA and police in Dallas, TX, calling it an obligation.

"Fear will cause people to do things out of the ordinary that they generally would not do because they are actually afraid of what could possibly happen to them, the repercussions of something that most of the time don't even happen,” Traynham said, "and so because of those particular elements we have a piece of the puzzle that's not in place."

The Center for Law & Justice leader Alice Green spoke with kids in Albany's South End on Friday, advising them: "It really is important to know what your rights are...particularly now. I think everybody's a little edgy so police officers might be as well so it's important to know how to maintain control of yourself and control of the situation so it doesn't escalate and somebody ends up getting hurt."

While she remains hopeful, however, "We've really got to do something about systemic racism and our fascination with guns."

And said she doesn’t remember being more tired and pained than this past week – the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in St. Paul and in Dallas, where investigators say lone gunman, Army veteran Micah Xavier Johnson, shot officers following a Black Lives Matter protest there. Five officers were killed and nine others, including seven officers, were injured. She backs Friday afternoon’s Black Lives Matter rally in Dana Park in Albany.

“Black lives are not valued as much as white lives,” Green said. “That we're perceived to be different, we're treated differently and we're served differently by all of the major institutions in our community, not just the police department and law enforcement."

"But until we all come together and we're able to sit down and have good, strong dialogue around issues that are uncomfortable we're never going to get to the root of the problem and then move our city and our nation forward as it should be,” said Traynham.


John Craig

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