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Local Approach Is Best on Race

Comments by one of those organizing a new group focused on equality in our area certainly were gratifying — but were no cause for patting ourselves on the back.

Named 4 BC, the organization’s mission statement calls for it to “work for racial reconciliation in Belmont County, help mediate disputes and keep Belmont County safe from the turmoil facing many cities in our country.” All are worthwhile goals.

How the 4 BC idea came about is interesting. St. Clairsville resident Bill Brooks initially became involved in work to revive an NAACP chapter in Belmont County. That project continues.

But as Brooks looked into issues involving race, he decided a national organization might not be the best way to proceed. “I have not seen, in the past 20 years, any incident that would require a national organization to come into Belmont County,” he explained. “We have a good police department. We have good city administrators. We have a good community and we are stressing to keep it that way.”

We think Brooks and others involved in 4 BC are on the right track — because solving race-based problems must be accomplished by local people. Involvement by outside parties is nowhere near as effective in the long run.

Brooks’ comments are reassuring, in a way. Still, they do not mean bigotry is absent entirely from our area. We feel confident that institutional racism — officially sanctioned discrimination — is not a problem here. But bigotry still surfaces among a few individuals. The occasional KKK flier found under a windshield wiper, the vicious comments sometimes posted on social media and the comments we sometimes hear from others make that clear.

We hope 4 BC can help do something about that in Belmont County and perhaps provide a model for other areas.

In terms of addressing the race challenge most in the news — treatment of minorities by law enforcement personnel — 4 BC may be able to work with police and sheriff’s departments to lessen tensions and raise awareness. We feel confident local sheriffs and police chiefs would welcome suggestions from the group.

If you are interested in 4 BC, you can obtain more information by calling Brooks at 740-312-9363. We hope the organization grows — because it can focus local energies on solving local problems.

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