Detroit Regional Chamber > COVID-19 Tele-Town Hall: Civility Discussion with Nolan Finley and Stephen Henderson

COVID-19 Tele-Town Hall: Civility Discussion with Nolan Finley and Stephen Henderson

June 5, 2020

Nolan Finley and Stephen Henderson Discuss Civility and Racial Equality

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the recent death of George Floyd has caused protests across the country in every state against police brutality and racial inequality, and general political unrest. To address this historical time and the political differences pushing people apart, Detroit News Editorial Page Editor Nolan Finley and WDET 101.9 “Detroit Today” Host Stephen Henderson discussed in a Tele-Town Hall moderated by Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah civility and racial equality during COVID-19.

Just addressing police brutality is not enough, said Finley. We need to address the much broader issue of inequality in every aspect of our society or this is going to happen again and again, he continued.

“It feels somewhat different and more universal,” said Finley. “But, if we just walk away from this feeling good because we put blackout posts on our Twitter account, or we marched, and never really get to the nitty-gritty of what’s wrong here… Police brutality is a symptom of a bigger problem.”

The term “civility” can provoke mixed reactions from people, commented Baruah. Some say it is a code word for suppressing disagreements or not addressing difficult matters. Henderson said he doesn’t interpret it that way.

“I believe that there are times and there are places when violent resistance to oppression is necessary and completely justified,” said Henderson. “And this is one of them. What we’re seeing right now is a reaction to the lack of systemic change that we’ve needed for a really long time.”

Right now, Black people have more to lose in this situation than anyone else, said Henderson. That prevents a civil exchange from changing things at this point.

“How do you change that?” asked Henderson. “You either lower the stakes for Black and brown people, something we’ve been asking America to do for a long time so that the consequences of systemic racism, which we [have lived] with since the beginning of this nation don’t visit on us with lethal consequences over and over and over again, often at the hands of the state itself.”

This is also costing a lot in terms of economic prosperity and progress along with human relationships, said Finley.

“That’s why I was glad to see our business leaders in this community step out and say, we’re going to be part of the fixing because it will benefit them along with everybody else,” said Finley.

In terms of addressing the underlying issues, Henderson said we have to talk about dismantling systems of oppression and reparations, even if it makes people uncomfortable. Understanding why some protests have turned violent means taking into account that people believe peaceful ones have not achieved enough.

“You gotta keep it in perspective. It’s not even close to the full picture of what’s going on,” said Henderson on the civil unrest portrayed on the news and social media. “American media has done a fair to less than fair job. I think of conveying that the numbers of people involved in the peaceful demonstrations have far outweighed the number of people involved in violent action.”