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Letter to the Editor: Time to embrace diversity

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Friday, August 10, 2018

My parents were married in 1962. Five years later, a Supreme Court ruling legalized interracial marriage in all 50 states. Prior to that ruling, moving to North Carolina as “illegal migrants” would have possibly resulted in imprisonment for my parents and an orphanage for me. They remained married for 53 years. Clearly, the North Carolina General Assembly was wrong on this issue.

I grew up in the racially and ethnically segregated city of Philadelphia. Not only did blacks and whites not live in the same community, but Jews, Irish, Germans, Italians and Puerto Ricans all lived only among themselves. In the late 1970’s, I was among those who helped de-segregate magnet schools in Philadelphia. When I left for Morehouse College, my mother was the only white person remaining in a community that my father was the first black person to live in. So, I’ve lived through “green flight” and gentrification.

I spent time in South Africa empowering citizens after apartheid under the leadership of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

My experiences with divisions and how to deal with them are broad. And yet, I have never lived in a community more in need of dealing with division than Rocky Mount and Nash County. It is evidenced in our policies, politics, pulpits and perspectives.

Our community must rise above the divisions that plague us. The future of our community necessitates a true cultural, economic, political and religious diversity. This will require empowerment of every citizen. Wherever injustice and inequality exist, we must share the microphone and gavel with those not of our socio-economic status or race. Simply giving input must be replaced with legitimate opportunities to lead. Crumbs from the table must be replaced with a seat at the table.

The potential in our community is great. However, that potential will remain unrealized and unharnessed unless we come together. Until we have perspective and conversations with people who do not look, live or think like us, we will always lack the collective IQ and experiences to be a true “City on the Rise.” It’s time to embrace our differences and our diversity for the good of everyone who lives here.

Rev. James D. Gailliard

State House District 25 candidate

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