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Panel on Race Relations Draws Crowd in Wheeling

‘Average Everyday Discussion’ Brings Opinions

Photo by Joselyn King Members of the public turn out Thursday for “An Average Everyday Discussion about Race” hosted by the Wheeling YWCA.

WHEELING — A panel discussing race relations said progress on the issue is “stagnant” in the city, and it needs continuing improvement.

About 50 people turned out Thursday for “An Average Everyday Discussion about Race” hosted by the Wheeling YWCA.

The event was moderated by Ron Scott, culture and diversity director for the Wheeling YWCA. He said he selected “everyday schmoes” to be on the panel and provide an everyday look at racial interactions as they experience.

Chad Stradwick, who works at Williams Lea Tag, went so far as to term race relations in the Ohio Valley as “awful.” He said a dynamic exists in the valley that leads blacks to not feel welcome in some establishments.

He said last year he worked as a UPS driver in St. Clairsville and would get “those looks” when people saw him in their neighborhood.

“I know what those looks mean,” he said. “I was just there for a job… I wasn’t trying to sell something.

“It shouldn’t be this way in 2018,” said Stradwick.

Susan Hagan said she grew up in Woodsdale. She said she never saw any minorities in her life until she began attending Triadelphia Middle School and later Wheeling Park High School. The area is very insulated, according to Hagan.

She spoke of going to work as a nanny for a black family that had just moved to the area, and the mother in the family asked her, “Where are all your black people?”

Hagan said a lot of misunderstanding results because people are afraid “to be politically incorrect,” and are afraid to speak with people who differ from them.

She suggested social media was a major factor in driving a wedge between the races, and that there “should be a 30 second wait” between when someone composes a post and when it actually goes public.

Corey Jackson, who delivers parts for a local car dealership, disagreed. He said if the thought you typed came from your mind, erasing it doesn’t make it less racist.

“A lot of people think they may say something racist,” said Jackson. “I think you’re going to say something that makes people realize you’re racist.”

Members of the panel also were in agreement that the presidency of Donald Trump has emboldened racists, and that many people today are more likely to express and do racially hurtful things than immediately before the Trump presidency.

“Trump has given these people a platform,” said Stradwick. “It does not make you racist if you voted for Trump. It just means racism was not the final straw for you.”

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