Summer is officially here, and a new dawn has broken in Montgomery County. Primary elections ushered a new generation of energized officials into office. A revitalized coalition of community volunteers has opened the historic swimming pool at the Carver Community Center. These important accomplishments are merely the next steps in a long pattern of sustained efforts from local residents to end segregation and discrimination in the region. It is time to think about the rest of this year and the plans for extraordinary opportunities in 2016.
Across the nation, it has been a rougher road as individuals and communities struggle to adapt to widespread efforts at inclusiveness. Symbolic moments like the controversies surrounding Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal matter less than the systemic abuses that continued in McKinney, Texas, and Charleston, South Carolina. In McKinney, local white residents could not accept a pool party with large numbers of black teenagers. The tensions there reflected the local policies of exclusion that led to the creation of the Carver Center’s pool in Norristown. When a police officer threw an unarmed girl to the ground and drew his pistol on a young man who was horrified by his actions, in full view of a white teenager’s cell phone camera, the nation recoiled in horror – especially in the wake of endless questions about police training and procedures. Less than a month later, a racial terrorist walked into one of the most important black churches in the nation’s history. He sat through a bible study with ten prayerful African Americans who had welcomed him into their spiritual home. He then stood up and shot them, killing nine, while claiming he had to do it to protect his race. An online journal has surfaced under his name, explaining a detailed agenda for restoring global white supremacy to its fullest glory. Millions of Americans have engaged in collective hand-wringing, wondering if any action could prevent similar bloodshed in the future.
Beyond the prayers and heartfelt words intended to heal, there is basic work required from people of good faith if the nation is to avoid one of its bloodiest summers ever. The widespread denials about the continuing power of white supremacy must end. Too many communities remain divided by racism and animated by specific hostility against African Americans. Places like Shelby, South Carolina, Boyertown, Pennsylvania, and Howell, New Jersey, must face their histories of explicit hatred that have shaped their current realities of segregation and injustice. Suburban counties like Montgomery, Chester, and Bucks in the Philadelphia area must engage in pointed, thorough reviews to root out public officials, especially in law enforcement, who hold racist views against black people, immigrants, and religious minorities. Further, every jurisdiction (local, county, state, and federal) must develop a sustained, generational agenda to remedy the persistent inequalities in business ownership, housing, employment, and education that have impoverished communities like Philadelphia, Norristown, and Coatesville. Finally, every bank, realtor, and small business with more than ten employees must look to support leaders and programs like the ones growing in Montgomery County over the last month.
As new graduates begin a summer of celebration, they and their families are the keys to expanding on the important successes of local organizations like the Norristown Men of Excellence and the Carver Community Center. More importantly, families from surrounding communities like East Norriton, West Norriton, King of Prussia, Blue Bell, and Plymouth Meeting have the power to break out of their racial isolation to make the region an inclusive place for all people. This coalition is the only possibility for a peaceful and prosperous summer – in Pennsylvania and across the United States.
Dr. Walter Greason founded the International Center for Metropolitan Growth (www.icmetrogrowth.com). Contact him through Twitter (@worldprofessor) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).