Black community starts dialogue on recent violence

NAACP leader: Lincoln University not to blame

Kemoh Edwards is concerned about what he sees in the headlines these days.

More importantly, he wants to do something about it.

Following last month’s shooting death of Cortez Bellamy and last week’s shooting incident that hospitalized Jeremy Tisdel, Edwards decided it was time to get people talking about the issues surrounding the incidents. He started the conversation with a letter to the editor in the News Tribune.

“Every time there is an incident of violence, especially one that is perpetrated by a black person, the negative comments about it ... are obvious,” Edwards said. “People don’t see it as a crime perpetrated by an individual. It seems to be a group perpetrated by a group, which is stereotyping.”

Edwards said, first and foremost, there needs to be a dialog started, headed up by the leaders of the black community.

Nimrod Chapel Jr. is one such leader of the black community who agrees there’s a need to talk about these recent issues and the elements that precipitated the events.

However, the president of the Jefferson City chapter of the NAACP is the first to say that just because leaders of the black community might be the people to begin the discussion, the conversation should not simply be limited to the black community.

“I think this is a community conversation, one that is not limited by race in any way,” Chapel said. “What we are talking about is one human being doing an act, and in one case, murdering a person or severely hurting them. That is a conversation that we as people need to have.”

Chapel said he is not sure at this point what shape those conversations might take, but presented the meetings of the NAACP as a potential forum to at least begin that discussion.

But simply talking about the problems is not enough, in Edwards’ opinion. He said it is also extremely important for the community to understand the events are not tied directly to Lincoln University, and to make such an assumption is not a fair connection.

“These violent acts would persist even if Lincoln University was not here,” Edwards said. “They are crimes that have been perpetrated by individuals. I don’t think that having this university in town necessarily has any correlation.”

Chapel echoed those concerns regarding connections that might be drawn to Lincoln. He pointed out generalizations and assumptions that Lincoln must be connected in some manner if a black individual is involved in a violent crime are not necessarily supported by the enrollment numbers.

“If you look at the makeup of Lincoln University, although it is classified as a HBCU (Historic Black College and University), it has a majority of its attendees who are non-minority,” Chapel said. “I understand the concern that these crimes could be purely viewed in relation to race, and then quickly turning to say, ‘Where are these particular ethnic minorities located,’ and then look over at Lincoln. But I don’t think that you can do that any more than you can look at state government, the public schools or any other public institution that is publicly funded.

“There are always going to be people in this community or others who will look at a particular outcome — whether it is something violent like this, poor test scores, poverty or some particular social issue — and make some broad generalization based on a particular incident. But that broad categorization of a group of people based on the actions of a few is just not proper and is what is defined as prejudice in some way.”

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