2002-03-08 Holland Sentinel Summit was necessary

Summit was necessary
Holland Sentinel

To the Editor:

In Mike Lozon’s Feb. 26 column in The Sentinel, he referred to the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism being an “exercise in futility.” For anyone who has already made up his mind that there is not problem of racism and thinks he knows what is the cause of any disparity in our society the summit probably would be an exercise in futility. For someone like Mr. Lozon to attempt to make his point based on exaggerations and partial information and to conclude why minorities “end up incarcerated” shows the very reason the Summit on Racism is necessary.

Mr. Lozon is quick to tell ethnic minorities what our reality is and what our life experience has been. Having lived most of my life in Holland, I know racism is alive and working. Mr. Lozon called the Summit on Racism “pretentious.” What is pretentious is thinking that racism does not have to be addressed. What is pretentious is to think that we have arrived at our full potential in being a healthy and just community.

This is the message of optimism that Mr. Lozon is unable to see. The Summit on Racism provides a time and place from us to come to the table together to give voice to who we are as ethnic minorities in this community and to share in the vision and hope of who and what we can be as a greater community. We either learn to do this together or we will always be at odds with one another. It is “chaos or community.” It is only by listening to each other and having a shared commitment to healing and justice that we can truly celebrate our diversity, which would be more meaningful than just shopping side-by-side at the Farmer’s Market as Mr. Lozon noted.

The summit was a moment of optimism and hope because 600-plus members of the community were willing to gather to exchange possibilities of ideas, and to think creatively about the future of our community. It is hopeful because it is a place to work inclusively, not only with diverse people but with business, government, education, health, media and faith sectors.

Even our faith communities, which Mr. Lozon wants to credit for its goodness cannot rest on its past laurels. In recent years our churches have become intentional to not only extend the benevolent hand but also to embrace the richness and giftedness that comes with a diverse community.

Faithfulness calls us to let justice roll down like water and to let peace and justice embrace. Justice is understood as doing right in the context of community. Justice is not “Just us.” It is necessary to enter into others’ pain or trauma in order to realize the reverence for life and the love of community. The Summit on Racism gives us opportunity to do just that.

Rev. Andres S. Fierro (Holland)