Citizens Split on Status of Race Relations

Article excerpt

Byline: Alliniece T. Andino, Times-Union staff writer

The view of where Jacksonville stands today regarding race relations depends on who is looking at the situation.

Three panelists offered differing views during a meeting yesterday for a Jacksonville Community Council Inc. study called "Beyond the Talk: Improving Race Relations in Northeast Florida."

One speaker told the 120 participants that different races cannot live together peaceably. Another said racial discrimination still occurs regularly. And the third said people of different races see things differently and need to communicate more.

The goal of the study is to recommend actions agencies can take to improve race relations. The weekly meetings are scheduled to continue through April.

After the panelists spoke yesterday, participants discussed the issue among themselves. They said people of different races should visit each other's homes and neighborhoods, and the public needs to combat inequality in schools and the workplace.

Charlene Taylor Hill, executive director of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission, said whites and blacks see things differently and need to communicate more.

Polls conducted in the region and nationally show a disparity in how the races view each other, Hill said. The commission started a Study Circles initiative to bring together people of various backgrounds to talk about race as a way to close the gap.

Isaiah Rumlin, president of the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP, said the gap in perception exists because discrimination still occurs -- and some whites just don't believe it.

He said, for example, that some schools in Jacksonville are still not racially integrated; that people are targeted by store security officers solely because of their race; and that the Adam's Mark hotel chain discriminates against black customers and employees. …