Dialogue needed in Isle of Wight

Published 6:25 pm Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

As I read last week’s Smithfield Times, I became somewhat distraught with the denial, avoidance and outright untruth about our history in these United States. My anger further heightened when one writer (“Memories and monuments”) basically said, “Blacks should be satisfied with where they are, because they have it better than other Blacks in the world” (and I paraphrase).

My immediate thought was to write a rebuttal to all of what was written and being said. But then with much prayer and reflection I decided that what really needed to be done is, instead of us talking AT each other, we need to start talking WITH each other.

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It is a strength that people view things differently. Our differences are what make the United States great. And there are many, many differences among us because our history has so long been denied, avoided and hidden.

The power of history lies in those who control the written word and the economic resources. We must unite in calling one another away from evil and we must unite in renouncing wrongs. To deny, avoid and hold on to the evils/wrongs that have occurred in our history is unacceptable. There’s not two sides to wrong. To deny all our history’s good and bad is to avoid the truth. And someone said that “the  truth will set you free.”

If we support oppression of people different than ourselves, whether overtly or silently, we stand with racism. If we support those who tell untruth, who lie repeatedly, we disavow honesty and integrity. If we condone actions of bullies and threats, we support that too.

As people of God, regardless of how you interpret your faith, there is one common requirement: Although we have difficulty in adhering to it, that is truly caring for humanity – “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” etc.

Saint Francis Assisi’s prayer gives us cause to refocus. He prayed, “Where there’s hatred, let me sow love. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. O Divine Teacher, God, Creator, grant that I may not so much seek to be understood, as to understand; to be loved as to love.” (adapted)

I entreat us in Isle of Wight County, especially our religious leaders, our elected leaders, our appointed leaders and our employed leaders, to take the lead in providing “safe space” where the citizenry of this county can safely discuss with each other, intentionally and truthfully, about their differences to enable us to no longer deny history but to own our true history (all of history — good and bad), so that in the future we can make a better history and a more loving and caring history.

Rev. Dr. Lilton J. Marks Sr.