NAACP event in Naperville provides frank talk on race
'Where do we go from here?'
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The Rev. Theresa Dear never wears casual clothes while making flights around the country for various speaking engagements or business trips.
Because if she wore tennis shoes and a jogging suit on an airplane, Dear says, she would be "targeted."
Despite the racial progress that's been made in this country, Dear said racial profiling continues to happen.
"African-Americans and African-American men in particular are racially profiled everywhere," said Dear, who is a minister at DuPage AME Church. "You walk in a store, racial profiled. You walk in a church that is not your denomination, racial profiled."
Before you can address that and other issues dealing with race, Dear said, there needs to be "a courageous conversation."
On Tuesday night, members of the DuPage County branch of the NAACP hoped to jump-start that discussion by hosting a town hall-style event at Naperville's North Central College. The session titled "Where do we go from here?" featured a panel that included a law enforcement official, a state representative and community members.
Organizers said the meeting, which drew more than 60 people, was inspired by the reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman.
"The reaction to the Trayvon Martin case is proving that there is a major difference in how people are viewing race in America," said Mario L. Lambert II, president of the local NAACP chapter, which covers DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties.
Lambert said the goal is to bring community leaders together to try to find solutions to the problems contributing to the racial divide.
There is, for example, an achievement gap between white and minority students in schools across the country.
Lourdes Ferrer, an education consultant and national speaker, said Common Core standards that are being implemented nationwide are only going to make things tougher for black and Hispanic students. So education has to be priority at home, she said.
"We have to change the way that we see education," Ferrer said. "And we have to make education a priority in our families."
State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia said there needs to be a push to get more funding to provide early childhood education.
"Once you educate a child, that child reaches the universe," she said. "They go anywhere they want to as long as we can educate them."
Parents also must be more involved in the education of their children, according to Renard Jackson, director of outreach and program development at North Central College.
"What we need is to have parents that are more responsible," Jackson said. "They can't continue to shift the responsibility away from what they need to do."
Meanwhile, Naperville Deputy Police Chief John Gustin acknowledged racial profiling happens.
"As long as we continue to hire police officers from the human race, you are going to end up with people who will exercise their particular prejudices and their particular intensions," Gustin said. But he said most of the police officers he knows are "fine, respectful men and women who follow the law."
In the meantime, Gustin said something needs to done to address the black-on-black crime.
"If we don't stop our own kids from killing each other, then this conversation is moot," Gustin said.
Lambert said the search for solutions will continue far beyond Tuesday night. He said organizers knew one meeting wouldn't be enough.
"What we're proving tonight is that we have leaders in the community who care," Lambert said. "They care enough to show up and talk about issues that are important. They also care enough to be available moving forward."
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