Editorials

Tired of all the divisiveness? This Modesto event could be for you

Wendy Byrd, president of the NAACP, speaks during a press conference organized by the Modesto Nonviolent Collective to oppose Straight Pride event scheduled for Saturday. Photographed at 10th Street Place in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019.
Wendy Byrd, president of the NAACP, speaks during a press conference organized by the Modesto Nonviolent Collective to oppose Straight Pride event scheduled for Saturday. Photographed at 10th Street Place in Modesto, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. aalfaro@modbee.com

Straight pride. Mass shootings. Divisive rhetoric.

It’s time to set the ugliness aside and remind ourselves what unites us.

We support the local NAACP chapter’s effort to broker greater understanding at a town hall meeting Tuesday here in Modesto. It represents a good step in a positive direction.

“A lot of (problems are) because we don’t understand and know each other well,” said the group’s Wendy Byrd. “We need to take advantage of opportunities to bring people together and create bridges of understanding.”

Everyone is invited. Speakers from segments of society that sometimes are mistreated, Byrd said, will share stories that may make some people uncomfortable. They represent our black, Latino, Jewish, Sikh, muslim and LBGTQ+ communities.

A flyer promotes the event as “the intersection of hate & discrimination” and promises “courageous conversations” about the trickiest of topics, including race, religion and sexual orientation. Clearly, not everything shared will be sweetness and light.

The president of the United States shares some responsibility for driving people apart, Byrd said, with a campaign “platform of division. People feel emboldened and let their own racism and bigotry show. But local people can solve local problems despite divisive leadership from the top. We need to make sure we don’t allow that disruptive rhetoric destroy our community.”

Talking about problems in a personal relationship precedes reconciliation. The same goes for broad relationships across a community.

We haven’t exactly been rocked with riots, although news of a straight pride event last month put everyone on edge because of potential for conflict and even violence. Instead, protesters stole the limelight and shifted the exclusion narrative to one that brought honor to Modesto.

Subtext on advertisements for Tuesday’s event calls for “common themes, common dreams.”

“The more we talk and get to know each other, the more we will see common dreams,” Byrd said. “It’s a great time to focus on building relationships and focusing more on commonalities than our differences.”

The Modesto-Stanislaus chapter of the NAACP seems to be assuming a new leadership role in examining community ills.

In May, the group hosted a community meeting examining the dismissal of former city auditor Monica Houston. Her job was sacrificed in a hyper-political dispute among City Council members only eight months after she was hired, and the position remains vacant.

So Tuesday’s event will be the chapter’s second town hall in four months. And they’ve already scheduled a third for Oct. 1.

Tuesday’s town hall starts at 6:30 p.m. at the King-Kennedy Memorial Center at 601 S. Martin Luther King Dr. What transpires then will set the table for Part 2 at 5:30 p.m. at the Stanislaus Veterans Center, 3500 Coffee Road, Suite 15.

It’s good to see the NAACP, which fosters freedom, justice and equality, take a leadership role in promoting unity and understanding. Modesto needs fewer publicity stunts like straight pride, and more of these genuine efforts to find common ground.

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