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Leon Bibb talks about race relations in Cleveland and across the United States

Posted at 9:24 PM, Nov 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-22 21:25:57-05

November 22 carries significance for Clevelanders. It was on this day in 2014, just three years ago, that Tamir Rice was killed.

The 12-year-old boy was playing at Cudell Recreation Center with an airsoft pistol that had the orange cap removed. Someone called 911 and when police showed up, Timothy Lowman fired within seconds, taking Tamir's life.

Lowman and his partner were later cleared and the city settled with Tamir's family.

This shooting was a turning point, especially for police.

All this prompts the question of how are race relations in this city, this community? It is a question I am often asked. It is a question which has been asked of me ever since I was a student in college and there were multi-racial panel discussions.

Race relations now are troubling. In this community - certainly in many parts of the nation - the question of black and white, and other colors, too, remains a central dividing point. At the friction point are the police. In this city, this is the case. Often, many African Americans view a situation through their lens. Often, many whites view the same situation through their lens.

In Cleveland, in many black circles, the police are viewed as an outside force which is not trusted. Even police brass in Cleveland has said it must weed out officers who do not enforce the law equitably across the board. And the two black people who were killed a few years ago in a hail of 137 bullets when they were found to be unarmed.

The Tamir Rice case was also a local friction point. Even before, there were smoldering embers. Then with controversial shootings of blacks by white police officers, the embers flared into loud voices and confrontations.

The Tamir Rice case drew out the sides and the political swords. Add to that, the talk from the White House of a national leader who seems to add fuel to so many fires. The national question of white supremacists and Nazis marching. The question of the Confederate battle flag. The question of the Confederate monuments. The question of police roughing up people stopped for traffic violations or less.

Race relations are not good in many circles. How can we improve them? It begins one-on-one with talking with your neighbor over the backyard fence. It is about sitting down to talk about issues which are troubling, uncomfortable, dividing, but which need to be discussed. 

E Pluribus Unum is the motto of the United States. It means, "out of" In this country, we - all of us - will sink or swim. Whichever way it goes, we will do it together.

Race relations? I have dealt with the question beginning in my teenaged years and all my adult life. To my children and my grandchildren, I have had discussions on how to stay alive if they are stopped by police. Race relations? Better in some circles. Horrible in others.

On this Thanksgiving Day Eve - this time where we speak of peace and tranquility - are we there yet? No. Can we get there? Yes, if you begin with you and work to make them better.