• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Library program to explore meaning of racial healing

Everyone in the community would benefit from attending an upcoming panel discussion at the Woodford County Library on what “racial healing” means for each of us, University of Kentucky history professor Dr. George C. Wright said. A scholar on race relations in America, Wright will speak about understanding and not duplicating mistakes of the past during the special program at the library on Tuesday, Jan. 21 – National Day of Racial Healing. A light dinner will be served at 6 p.m. when the program begins, and anyone wanting to attend may sign up by calling 873-5191 or visiting woodfordlibrary.org on the web. Library assistant Nancy Blackford, who helped organize the program, said it’s important to have conversations about racial healing because of the hatred toward one another that’s arisen in our country recently. “We can’t just keep closing the door on things that we don’t want to talk about,” said Blackford. “Part of healing is getting a story out and talking about it.” She said those participating in the library’s panel discussion will share personal stories about the hurt they’ve felt because of the racism inflicted on them or their families. Blackford said she’s hopeful those attending the program will identify with panelists and learn from their experiences. “A lot of times,” she said, “love can overcome hate … and change someone.” During an interview Monday afternoon, Wright said racial healing does not equate to somebody feeling guilty about what has happened in the past, but instead it’s about acknowledging what has occurred and talking about where we are today. “I just hope people would come (to the public library’s panel discussion on racial healing) and realize that none of us … has all of the answers,” said Wright. He said conversation offers an opportunity for racial understanding and healing. “… The thing that concerns me, personally, most about the present-day United States,” said Wright, “is that I don’t think people actually talk to one another about these issues unless … a crisis or tragedy or something unfortunate has happened.” It’s often much better – and more productive – to have dialogue when those involved in a conversation are not trying to defend or blame someone’s behavior and are “truly listening to what other people say,” he explained. Wright, who has been teaching classes about history and race relations since 1977, said the country has made significant progress in terms of equality for its citizens since he was born into a world “where racial segregation was very real, where racial discrimination was real” in 1950s Lexington. “I saw much of that dismantled,” said Wright. However, he said that doesn’t mean there haven’t been times when this country has not taken a step backward during these years of significant progress in terms of race relations. “If you had asked me 30 years ago would there be a black president,” said Wright, “I probably would have said no.” In the years before and since Barack Obama was elected president or beginning in the 1990s, he said, “I don’t think that we’ve had the real racial dialogue that we should have.” Issues of race have been discussed during social movements like “Black Lives Matter,” but those conversations would be more productive if subjects like “black face” or “Confederate monuments” did not bring the issues to the forefront, Wright explained. The National Day of Racial Healing – one day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day – encourages people in communities across the country to come together for conversations about race relations and taking action to “create a more just and equitable world.” Next Tuesday’s library program on racial healing – like most of its programs – was organized in response to patron requests, Woodford County adult services librarian Emily Saderholm said. “We’ve had a lot of dissension and civil unrest (across the country) related to race relations … and lot of that is related to … all of us getting used to communicating with each other better and sharing our own experiences and being open to hearing other people’s experiences and finding a common ground where we can agree to honor each other’s experiences and be there for each other as a community – just to build a stronger community,” Saderholm said.

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