Alliance for Interracial Dignity sponsored “Living in 63119” where African American speakers told about being racially profiled in a primarily white community on Jan. 29, at the First Congregational Church.
The four members on the panel were Emerson Smith, president of the Webster Groves School District Board of Education, John E. Thomas, assistant principal at the high school, Rock Hill Mayor Edward Mahan and Willa Washington, former member of Webster Groves Planning Commission.
Smith said via email about what he would say to those who racial profile him. “I would invite them to place themselves on the other side of those assumptions. How would they feel if they were assumed guilty or suspicious because of race, the type of clothing worn, or physical appearance? In today’s society individuals express themselves with tattoos, body piercing, unique hair color or hair styles. Just because they are different is not a reason to brand them a certain type of person.”
Smith, who is also vice president of the American Eagle/Anheuser-Busch Employees’ Credit Union, has served as chairman of the Juvenile Conference Committee of St. Louis County, a member of the Board of Adjustment for the city of Webster Groves and a member of the school district’s Finance Advisory Committee, spoke about being racially profiled several times in the Webster Groves community where he has lived for 30 years.
According to talk-heal-change.org, Alliance for Interracial Dignity is an organization committed to bringing communities together by learning from collective past, challenging the racial status quo and building strong community.
Stereotypes sometimes correlate with prejudice and discrimination. Smith answered the question whether it’s more important to let others now that he isn’t a stereotype or for himself to break stereotypes, said “In tense situations like potential profiling, my goal is to help the other person understand that some things they see on television or at movies are not true. It is difficult for individuals to recognize or confront their personal fears. Denial is normally the first response.”
Smith encourages and invites students and community members to attend the community engagement meetings the Alliance offers. There next Alliance sponsored meeting is April 16th, 7pm-9pm at Hudson Elementary.
Smith said, “Change can only happen when an individual can open their mind and put forth an effort to understand. This is the importance of creating relationships with positive dialogue.”