Yet again, Durham is hanging its dirty laundry out for all to see. And, yet again, the community is responding in a way that reminds everyone who lives here why it's such a remarkable place. That might not be so obvious to people far away, or even as close as Chapel Hill. But to most Durhamites--black, white and Latino--the mobilization of vigils and discussions following the burning of three crosses last week are reminders that we may fight over our political and philosophical differences, but we come together on the fundamental issues of justice and equality as easily as we eat, shop, study and work together every day.
We still have our problems. They're not problems that are alien to other cities--crime, government mismanagement, the achievement gap--they're just ones that we in Durham debate loudly at the top of the agenda. Frankly, I'd rather have that loud debate than the kind of silence that surrounded the death in Raleigh last month of Batrone Hedgepeth after he was arrested and pepper-sprayed by police. One can only imagine the firestorm that would have erupted in Durham if it had happened here--and rightly so. The final police and medical examiner's findings aren't in, but it's certainly not too soon for members of the community to be asking the same questions about Raleigh police procedures as our Peter Eichenberger.
Yes, as the Rev. Carl Kenney points out this week, the decibel level of interracial discourse in Durham, particularly at school board meetings, has reached unacceptably into the red. It is inflaming passions and taking away from the real discussions that must take place if our schools are to continue getting better. It is certainly time, as Kenney says, for everyone to stop, listen and hear the truth behind what the other side is saying. (As many readers know, Steve Schewel, the Indy's founder and chairman of its board, is a Durham school board member. He played no role in Kenney's story.)
Once we all start seeing things from the other side, we can resume the discussion at a tolerable level and remind the rest of the region that what makes Durham remarkable isn't burning crosses or theatrical school board meetings, but the way its people get along.