Scott Hamilton, CEO of the Urban League of Arkansas, says the current political atmosphere can foster improvement on the subjects of race relations, social justice and economic disparity.
In the wake of the George Floyd protests gripping the state and nation, Hamilton said the comparison to the 1992 Rodney King beating by police is apt.
“I think we’ve had many of these moments. I think, in fact, these are milestones, as I say, on a continuum. This is just part of our culture, this is part of our society, and it’s part of America. And instances like this, I believe really heighten the underlying challenges that we’ve never resolved in this country,” Hamilton said.
He contends that listening to each other from many different perspectives is crucial, but it goes beyond listening.
“It is listening. It’s finding a willingness to listen. You know, people talk about common ground, things like that and that’s great, there’s a lot of ways you can talk about it. At the end of the day, it’s just good old-fashioned listening. And listening is not hearing somebody. Listening is really taking the time to delve into what that person is saying,” he said.
“A lot of times, people have conversations, and it stops right there at the surface. But if that conversation goes deeper, ‘Hey tell me more, how did that make you feel? How do you explain this to your kids?’ How does a black parent today explain to their six-year-old what’s going on? How does a white parent today explain to their six-year-old what’s going on? In a vacuum, they’re going to be very different conversations. Because there will be different impacts and expectations and realities for both of those different groups. Same thing with our Latinx community, same thing with our Asian community, they’re all different perspectives, as you said earlier, of the same issue. And that’s where that conversation has to happen,” Hamilton added.
Hamilton said agreeing on principles is good, but agreeing on all issues or viewpoints is not the goal.[Someone says,] ‘I heard this, but I don’t agree.’ Well that means you didn’t hear it. Because they’re not asking you to agree. You can never agree, I mean there are certain things that you fundamentally may feel differently about, and that’s fine, that’s okay. But if it boils down to whether or not people are looking for agreement, we’ll never get anywhere,” he said.
Hamilton also argued that the debate over improving race relations is not about white people coming around to black people’s point-of-view.
“A black person has to do the same from a white perspective. If there are perspectives that whites are saying that believe things are this way, or this is the experience that a white person has had, a black person cannot come back and attack that or say, ‘Well, that’s why you don’t understand me.’ No, it goes both ways, and so there also has to be a willingness for a black person to understand that myths and perceptions about white people are wrong. There are a lot of myths and perceptions that black folks have about white folks that are just absolutely wrong,” he said. “It’s our job to continue on. Not to get frustrated, not to get sensitive about things because it is a sensitive topic, but it’s absolutely, it’s got to go both ways, there has to be a willingness of both parties to really be open and to acknowledge that they can be wrong.”
You can watch Hamilton’s full interview in the video below.