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Summit Will Examine S. Florida Race Divisions

Summit will examine S. Florida race divisions

By Gregory Lewis
and Toni Marshall Staff Writers

November 8, 2003

O.J. Simpson was guilty of murder. Broward County commissioners treated Miriam Oliphant with disrespect.

Chances are if you're white, you agree with the first statement more often than blacks do.

If you're black, you are more likely than whites to agree with the second.

Blacks and whites can examine the same set of circumstances and see things differently. Sometimes the resulting debates leave each side exasperated with the other.

Lauderdale Lakes City Commissioner Levoyd Williams wants to bridge the gap between blacks and whites in Broward County through discussions that examine the different perceptions the races hold.

Today, he will be host to a four-hour Race Relations Summit, starting at 9 a.m. in the Lauderdale Lakes City Commission Chamber. The panel includes officials, ministers, lawyers and community activists, some black, others white, to discuss issues that have created racial divisions.

The session is open to the public.

"It's time we begin to talk about the real deal," Williams said Friday. "Diversity is good, but we haven't had discussions about such things as institutional racism or the racist things we do to each other."

The panel does not include any Hispanics. Williams was unavailable later Friday to explain.

Among the invited panelists is David Shomers, Lauderdale Lakes' vice mayor, who is one of the white residents who make up 33 percent of his community.

"Bigotry and racism come in all colors, and it must be attacked by all communities," Shomers said. "The issues cannot be controlled by one community alone."

As a minority in his community, Shomers said he has occasionally felt the sting of bigotry and discrimination. "Not that my experience compares in any way with those of other races who have faced discrimination, but I am able to empathize," he said.

Williams said blacks are concerned about racial disparities, such as higher incarceration rates.

Racial divides are evident in everyday life, not only locally but universally, he said. Honest discussion is the only way to heal the wounds of inequality and break down fear based on race, he said.

"We have to ask the tough questions ..." Williams said. "We need to look at these things and respect one another."

Gregory Lewis can be reached at glewis@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4203.

Copyright © 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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