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Moving Forward By Hearing, Learning, and Understanding

On July 10, South Carolina celebrated the one-year anniversary of the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina State House grounds.  What should have been a joyful event for our state became a backdrop for protests against the senseless violence that has destroyed lives in Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas – lives lost at the hands of racism, bigotry, and terrorism.

How do we move forward as a country, as a state, as a community?  What answers can possibly bring us together when we seem to be irreconcilably divided?

Following the deaths of five Dallas police officers at a protest on July 7, The Dallas Morning News published a front page editorial on July 10 that framed a path forward.  “…We live together, but we do not often understand one another.  This is because of class, sometimes geography and often race.  We are not unique in this.  Americans are living beside one another without understanding one another all over the country.  Where to begin? It’s time to put aside, for now, proscriptions about what is right and who is wrong.  To push past the politics of race and anger and to put the presidential election out of our hearing for a brief moment. …There will be time later for anger and for justice – anger whose purpose is served in justice.  But for now we need to learn to understand each other, to really hear one another, to learn from one another.”

Our team discussed the impact of the events on our community asking: How can we ensure that when our community comes together to listen and learn, we are sensitive to the filters we all employ? And, what role should our Foundation play?

Our Community Foundation adheres to a sense of community and brings people together through philanthropy.  One of the areas of our Connected Communities grant initiative is ‘welcoming community,’ defined by a resident’s perception of how welcoming our community is to different types of people.  We are currently funding Race – Are We So Different? at the South Carolina State Museum. The exhibit includes a number of programs designed to promote conversations about this often sensitive subject and increase understanding of one another’s beliefs. But beyond these programs and after the exhibit closes, how will we continue this conversation?

Today, we don’t have the answers.  Today we’ll borrow a lesson from Dallas and begin to learn to understand each other, to really hear one another and, to learn from one another.  During the next few months, we will listen to people across the Midlands, people from different backgrounds who have unique perspectives based on their individual experiences.  And, once we hear, learn and understand we can move forward – together.

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