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An Invitation for Dialog on Racial Issues in St. Petersburg.

These girls are looking forward to the day when they can live together in a society of peace and prosperity. What can we do together today to help accomplish that goal. The invitation is offered to start right here on the Sunbeam Times.

These girls are looking forward to the day when they can live together in a society of peace and prosperity. What can we do together today to help accomplish that goal? The invitation is offered to start right here on the Sunbeam Times.

By David McKalip, M.D.

The time has come for a dialog between races in St. Petersburg regarding inter-racial relationships and the condition of the black and white communities here. The immediate context is the continued controversy and concerns regarding the shootings of black people by Police as well as the actions of protesters that manifest as violence and chaos.  However the greater context is the  continued poverty and hopelessness that appears to be pervasive in our local black community. The larger perspective must include the impact of governmental action, an overall moral degradation in society as a whole and the loss of faith in God as a cornerstone of action and justice predominately among the white community. The Sunbeam Times is offering to open this dialog on race in these pages. I am offering free space here to any person who wishes to engage in a public dialog on racial issues in St. Petersburg and the country as the whole. More details are below, but it will be based on mutual respect and listening to each other, and not anger and disrespect.

This author (yours truly, Dr. David McKalip) is no stranger to strained race relations and controversy having unintentionally stirred up my own by emailing an offensive image of President Obama as a witch doctor. The ramifications and backlash was deep and painful for many, but ignored the political context and motivations of many involved which were less than pure. While I recognized my sin, apologized for and paid for my action, I heard no such apology or similar action from those who were agitating for their own political purposes. That will be a story for another day.  The point is that I have been greatly involved in trying to help with race relations in St. Petersburg since before that day in July of 2009 and until today. For instance, I was able to organize an African American Career Fest to benefit children in midtown and help the black Boy Scout program in 2006. In 2012 I reached out to a well known local black pastor to find a way to organize interfaith/interracial bible studies that would serve as a basis of racial reconciliation in St. Petersburg. My efforts were rebuffed because I refused to first swear loyalty to President Obama and his agenda (but I did gain a greater understanding of the importance of President Obama to the black community). In 2013 and 2014 I helped found “St. Pete Together” with like minded black and white leaders in the community to help find a way to address many social issues in our city. The group disbanded and it was clear that a frank dialog based on mutual respect was not possible as some members literally shouted down those who failed to agree with a certain perspective on “institutional racism”.  Just recently I brought my “Founders Corner Monuments” to downtown St. Petersburg on the 4th of July and was delighted to see people of all races interested. Many black people enjoyed learning about the founding principles of the USA and one even asked me “how many people of my color realize how important this is?” Sadly, the joy of a young black family taking the free copies of the Constitution and Declaration of independence was overshadowed by their black father shouting angrily “there is no equality”, indicating that the salute to “Equal Justice” on the monuments was a fraud. I offered back “equality comes from God and we are all brothers in Christ”. Sadly his angry shouts carried off with him as he walked away with his wife and children who were now somewhat crestfallen. I offer this background not out of pride but out of humility and a demonstration of my sincere interest.

I remember growing up in St. Petersburg and being bused in the first group of kids subject to government-forced integration of the schools. I remember growing up and thinking – as a teenager and then college student in local schools –  that over the next generation or two “things would just work themselves out”. I figured that the integration programs, the government poverty programs and more would certainly solve the underlying racial tension.  I sincerely had an optimistic view of the future, truly believing that the days of racial animosity would be gone when I had my own kids. I was a liberal then and had a very favorable view of government programs (now I am a conservative and recognize their folly). Sadly, despite enormous progress for black people (an end to Jim Crow laws, equal opportunity laws, amazing opportunities for education and work) there appears to be a dissatisfaction among the black community and a general distress among the white population about how stalled we appear to be.

As a Catholic Christian and an optimist, I am certain that we can find common ground and move forward together as brothers and sisters. As a pragmatic observer of government, society and demographics, I am certain that there is far more progress than people acknowledge. Yet when I drive around town I still see poverty and hopelessness in many of the same places where they existed in the ’70’s. That includes black and white communities. That bothers me – where is the prosperity that should be here by now? I am sincerely concerned about the anger on display from protesters and activists, but I also recognize that in general such groups do not always reflect the truth of what is felt or actually happening in a community. I also recognize that white and black leaders often trade on dissent and anger, not peace and happiness. That said, there is a clear need for reconciliation and that is best started with a sincere dialog among people of good will – the real people living daily on our communities.

So in a sincere good will, I am offering to start such a dialog here on these pages. Any person who is black and works for the betterment of black and white people as a whole is invited to participate (that includes Black Lives Matter and similar groups if they are so inclined). I envision a series of articles that can be in a variety of formats (which can be decided together). Many different authors are welcome and they must agree to do the writing themselves and be willing to meet from time to time in person. The person(s) must be interested in reconciliation between races and building a bridge among brothers and sisters who are black and white. They must be willing to pose and answer difficult questions directly and openly. They must avoid anger and personal attack and act in good faith toward a joint goal: peace and prosperity for all in our city. They must be willing to search for common ground  -so  a long term basis of reconciliation can exist in our town that we both can work on together for years to come.

Here is an example of a discussion that needs to occur:

Why is there still significant poverty in the Black Community of St. Petersburg? What is the best approach most likely help?

Any person who is interested should contact me at dmckalip@neuro3.net or leave a comment to this post below with contact information (the contact information will remain private). This invitation will be posted widely on social media to attract attention of those interested in participation.

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5 Replies:

  1. Sharon Russ

    Hi David.. I am interested in participating in dialogue concerning poverty in South St.petersburg.

  2. Gary West

    This is a copy of a Letter I sent to the Tampa Bay Times that you will never see in print.

    The Tampa Bay Times published an article describing protest march by the Uhurus/African Peoples Socialist Party led by their “spokesman” Omali Yeshitela during which Micah Johnson, killer of 5 police officers, is hailed as a hero and Yeshitela makes a not-so-subtle call for cops to be murdered.
    He stated…..”they (meaning the black community) will know when the time comes (to shoot cops).”
    Where is the editorial outrage or is your ignoring of this blatant call to slaughter police a sign of your tact approval?
    This editorial board and this newspaper leads the charge to blame everything on white people in general, white police specifically, guns, the NRA, Republicans and and any one or thing that you feel can be used to promote class warfare.
    When will you recognize that this publication hinders diversity, discussion and honest efforts to people of different flavors together at a common table. You editorially whisper lies in the ears of others hoping to see the combative results then you yell “See!.”

  3. William

    I can feel the sincerity and hope in your words. I pray that people of principle heed your call to create a dialogue that not only elevates the conversation, but also the communities involved.

  4. Sharon Russ

    Early childhood development is crucial to the academic achievement and social and emotional development in the later years of a child’s life. Poverty has no color or boundaries. Most learning occurs before a child enters school. Consequently, black children enter school at a development disadvantage from the start and are never able to catch up.

    Studies have shown that the early developmental years from birth to 3 are crucial to literacy, language, cognitive, and social and emotional development later in life. Brain development is rapid during the first three years. Children who are not exposed to a nurturing and learning environment during the first three years of life are prone to violent behavior in their later years. We must invest in high- quality early childhood programs for at risk children.

    Unfortunately, government funded child care facilities are failing to provide proper nutrition, parental education, cognitive, and the social and emotional security that builds a foundation for kindergarten readiness and academic achievement in the later years of life. Third grade is pivotal for children. Too many at-risk children cannot read on grade level by third grade. Education is the key to ending generational poverty and violence among youth in urban areas.
    Hillary Clinton’s speech today at the NAACP convention in Ohio on the need for prison reform, police training, and the disproportionate amount of blacks in prison was a desperate attempt to bring black voters to the poles.( Ms.) Hillary spoke in a tone that insinuated that Republicans are the blame for the increase in the prison population among black youth and adults. The break down of the black family caused by democrat ran polices keep blacks on the plantation and voting democrat. Public housing projects and horrific government child care programs that fail to meet developmental milestones in the early years are the root cause of the problems facing blacks in America.

    Housing projects such as Jordan Park in South St. Petersburg, where many generations of black families have lived was rebuilt with a $25 million Hope VI grant 15 years ago to improve conditions after the 1996 riots. Currently, the residents are living in rat and roach infested housing. Where was the oversight? We must put an end to public housing that has bred generational poverty, violence and crime. An educated black populous is the Democrat Party’s worse night mare because they will leave the urban plantations and understand that God created all men free. Republicans must do more to ensure that black children are able to take advantage of educational options that improve education for at-risk children in order to fight poverty and crime.
    The discord, division, and hate that is happening in our streets is not a civil rights movement. Sadly, it is directly related to getting black people to the polls at the cost of innocent lives and families being destroyed. Martin Luther King JR. led a peaceful movement that did not center around violence, disrespect and the killing of law enforcement officers As a result, it brought people of all races together based on love for humanity. One of the main goals of the 1960’s civil rights movement was equal education. Blacks need a president who will reform urban education and poverty programs.
    This may be one of the most important presidential races in the history of America. We are facing turmoil all over the country. The survival of our nation is at stake. We must stand on our creed that ” ALL men are created equal, they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. ” God Please Bless America, Again.

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