JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 500 people across the United States watched an online forum about racial diversity that was hosted by Florida State College at Jacksonville on Thursday night.
During the forum called “Not the Enemy," a panel of scholars, artists and activists spoke about everything from the backlash against Asian Americans following the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to the summer of national social unrest following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The panelists for the forum talked about racial diversity and why it’s important for everyone to be open and accepting of people of color or other ethnic backgrounds. Event organizer Paul Hendrickson said this discussion began several months ago when the coronavirus made its way from China to the U.S.
“And in response to COVID-19, there was a backlash against Asians and Asian Americans," Hendrickson said.
Event speaker Elana Ohlander said the backlash against some Asian business owners in Jacksonville was harsh.
“They almost had to shut their doors because the support was not there,” Ohlander said.
The subject of diversity then shifted to racial injustice toward African Americans following the deaths of Floyd and Taylor, and locally, the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery. Their deaths led to protests and social unrest across the U.S., including in Jacksonville, where some people are still divided over differences between two slogans — Black Lives Matter and “all lives matter.”
“Differences do matter, but they absolutely do not need to divide us," Hendrickson said.
That’s why the panel of speakers chose to discuss these matters with the hope that people watching across the country will walk away with a better understanding of racial, social and ethnic injustice and discrimination.
“I think it’s a very great time to have this conversation, especially with everything that’s going on. We have so many issues at point, and I think everyone needs to be heard. So this is an opportunity for everyone to be heard and acknowledged so we can move forward collectively," said event host Maiya Phillips.
Organizers said it’s OK to protest what is perceived to be a racial or social injustice if the protest does not involve violence or the threat of violence.