Local leaders talk faith, racism across the Ohio Valley

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WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – Rhetoric turned to dialogue Sunday at the Vineyard Church in Wheeling as the Chief of Police was addressed by a representative with the NAACP among others. Some called to have compassion for police while others called for change.

Why is there racism here in America when considered this is the most Christian nation on earth?  

Owens Brown, State President of NAACP, Wheeling

It’s time to have a public discussion about it because of what is going on in our world.

Chris Figaretti, Lead pastor of the Vineyard Church, Wheeling

Police chief, the mayor, our state representatives, and others in clergy have come out. That’s something to be highly commended. Do not assume that this happens in every community.  

Reverend Darrell Cummings, Bethlehem Apostolic Temple, Faith and Racism organizer

Rare indeed. And in this discussion, maybe the most poignant topics of contention arose from the Friendly City’s police chief himself.  

The stereotyping of police. I mean, what happened in Minneapolis should not be an indictment of the Wheeling Police Department or the Wheeling community, or any other police department. It should be a review of what’s going on there. I’m very proud of the police officers, particularly in response to some of the demonstrations we had last weekend. I thought it was handled very well, very professionally.

Shawn Schwertfeger, Wheeling Chief of Police

Where the chief says all police get a bad rep, in a similar way Reverend Cummings said all African Americans do too.

African Americans see the police very differently. Some see them as friends, some see them as enemies.

Owens Brown, State President of NAACP, Wheeling

But how do you fight fear of the other? Chief Schwertfeger says it comes down to knowing every community member by name.  

Chastised by ignorant whites, and I saw him chastised by ignorant blacks. He couldn’t win. A black man wearing the uniform of the police officer. Sworn to take that other, which we value.” “He’s no longer with us, but he was a great man.

Shawn Schwertfeger, Wheeling Chief of Police

So maybe the common ground is simpler than you might have thought; loving thy neighbor… And then some.  

I think a lot of people are unconscious of the dialogue. It’s going to require that in white neighborhoods, they cannot tolerate racism.

Owens Brown, State President of NAACP, Wheeling

I think the change begins not from legislature on high, but from love below. And, that starts with every one of us.

Jake Steele, Pastor of Christ United Methodist Church, Wheeling

When challenges face us, sometimes they seem insurmountable on our own, but together, with the rest of our friends and neighbors and even the strangers whom we haven’t yet met, we can truly transform our society for the better.

Rabbi Joshua Lief, Wheeling Temple Shalom

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