Tim Zaun, Associate Teacher Counselor for the Positive Education Program (PEP) at the PEP Prentiss Center for Autism, responds to the question, “Why is an open and honest discussion about race important to you and your community?” in the following essay, which was one of two winners in a contest sponsored by Fresh Water and the YWCA Greater Cleveland as part of that organization's second annual It’s Time to Talk Forum on Race event.
In his Aug. 28, 1963, “ I Have a Dream” speech, delivered at the March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundation of our nation until the bright days of justice emerge.”
King’s prescient words resonate today, in Northeast Ohio and around the country, as racial tensions persist.
Open and honest dialogue about race promotes transparency among individuals, business, schools, religious institutions, law enforcement, and government, all of which comprise a community. Forthright conversations expose misperceptions, prejudice, as well as commonality. Trust, new ideas, and an understanding of people’s needs are among the benefits of clear communication.
Stephen Covey, famed author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
, said, in Habit 4, "Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood." To advance the fight against racism, people of every nationality need to engage in empathic listening. For it’s only when we understand another’s plight can we begin to help them and expect their grace in return.
I’m proud to live in a region committed to addressing the complex dynamics of racial relations. The pledge represents respect for every citizen; and empowers me to be a part of the change. Discovering viable solutions to racial discord affords me the opportunity to live in a thriving community.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Words may show a man’s wit, but actions his meaning.” The YWCA’s “It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race exemplify Northeast Ohio’s ability to advance, not only dialogue, but action plans to address racism, prejudice and discrimination. Those engaged in the process lead the way in helping Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of “brighter days of justice,” become a long overdue reality.