Wilmington and New Hanover County leaders discuss progress with race relations on MLK Jr. Day

Wilmington and NHC leaders discuss progress with race relations

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Race relations and the treatment of African Americans and non-whites can be a very difficult conversation.

It’s a conversation that Wilmington City Council member Clifford Barnett believes is happening more following Black Lives Matter protests over the summer.

“I think we’re getting there but it still takes time,” said Barnett. “It’s a deep scar; it’s not just something that’s going to happen overnight. But it’s something we need to work together all the time.”

On a day that celebrates accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield believes we can’t forget about the struggles of those in the past.

“I think we take a lot of things for granted,” said Barfield. “Like I was sharing with someone the other day, the African American community in our country that had to have a bill passed to be able to have the right to vote. When others come to this country and become naturalized citizens, they automatically have the right to vote. I think we take a lot for granted in terms of the struggle that many fought for and died for.”

On May 25, 2020, the struggles resurrected following the killing of George Floyd. His murder at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer set off unprecedented protests across the country. Protest held in and around Wilmington led the removal of confederate monuments and the renaming of parks and schools that honored those who represented oppression.

“I’ve been glad and honored to be on a council where we’ve taken down some Confederate statues,” said Wilmington City Council member Kevin Spears. “I never thought I’d see that in my lifetime and I’m a lifelong Wilmingtonian. Of course, the name change of Hugh McRae Park. We’re going to have to get into some really tough conversations.”

“I believe New Hanover county itself, the citizens here, have been engaged in many conversations for several years now,” added Barfield. “It didn’t just start this year or this past year; there’s been several conversations about race relations and how we heal our community.”

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