By Lasca Randels
WINONA LAKE — One Warsaw hosted an educational community-themed event Thursday, Sept. 3, at Winona Lake Limitless Park.
The event, the first in a series, included a panel discussion on racism, including the history of racism and how we move forward with anti-racism. The panel featured Winona Lake resident Jonna Watson, a school psychiatrist who holds a master’s degree in psychology, Sara Strahan, a local person of color and Andrew Morton, an associate pastor at Warsaw Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Local attorney Travis McConnell led the discussion.
“In our opinion at One Warsaw, it’s not just enough to not be racist,” McConnell said. “We must be anti-racist.”
Anti-racism, McConnell explained, is “an active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, structures and policies so that all people are seen and treated as equals ultimately.”
One of the questions McConnell asked the panel related to the recent acts of violence occurring at protests.
“With everything that’s going on in our country today — I’m sure we’ve all followed the news from wherever we get it, is violence an acceptable reaction toward racism?” McConnell asked.
“My answer would be no,” Morton said. “I can certainly understand why many people feel like they have no other option to turn to but violence, but I would say that violence is not the answer.”
Morton continued by saying that if the goal is to open our eyes to the value, the worth and the dignity of every human life, then doing things that would put other human lives in jeopardy is no way to go about doing that.
He added that violence is counterproductive to the conversations that need to happen.
“Because when people see the violence happening in the name of protest, for them it ends the conversation,” Morton said. “It gives them an excuse in their minds not to listen to the conversation that needs to happen and it keeps progress from taking place.”
Strahan said the violence we are seeing today is the language of people who are unheard.
“Nobody has been listening for 400 years, so what you’re seeing is the psychological effects of people that have been crying out for 400 years for something to be done and nothing was changed,” Strahan said.
“If our mind goes back to during Dr. King’s time, if we could go back that far and we can go to those still images, we will see the marching happening. Everybody locking arms, praying, singing, marching together in the street. It took one agitator on the other side to cause that violence to erupt. One person,” Strahan said. “It wasn’t coming from the Dr. King side of people locking arms and praying and singing. It was coming from the opposition, from the side that didn’t want to see the change.”
Strahan said she believes that’s what we’re seeing today.
“I don’t agree with the violence, but I do understand where the violence could be coming from,” Strahan said.
Additional educational events following a similar format have been scheduled. The next event will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Sept. 22 in Syracuse, location to be determined; then from 1-2 p.m. Oct. 18 in Silver Lake, location to be determined; and 5:30-6:30 p.m. Nov. 23 in the Warsaw area, location to be determined.
“This is our educational component to really get the word out there to help people get to know each other more. The goal is to get people to interact more,” McConnell said. “If we interact more, listen to each other more, we’ll learn to live together better, be better humans, be better community members. Ultimately it makes our community a stronger place.”
One Warsaw aims to inspire community inclusion through support, education and celebration of all people.
The entire discussion can be viewed on One Warsaw’s Facebook page.
McConnell is a Democrat candidate running for Kosciusko County Commissioner. He’ll face Republican Cary Groninger in the Nov. 3 election.