Local News

Racial Harmony a Common Cause in Durham

Posted November 11, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— The roundup is over for a group of men who police say terrorized members of Durham's Spanish-speaking community. Five young men are behind bars, facing more than 100 charges.

While these arrests have residents breathing a little easier, there is still a lot to be done to make the Hispanic community feel safe. WRAL's Kelly Wright says people he's talked to say they're hoping a new attitude in Durham will help.

Some city leaders say people in the Bull City have two common enemies: ignorance and crime.

The police are largely responsible for dealing with crime, and with several arrests in the Hispanic cases, it appears they are getting the job done. But conquering ignorance will require a united effort from all citizens.

Police have vigorously pursued African American criminals that have preyed on the Hispanic community. But members of El Centro Hispaño are quick to announce that the Hispanic/Latino community holds no grudge against African Americans. Gabriel Alonso/El Centro Hispaño"When we look at African Americans, we don't feel they're going to do anything to us. We're not looking at them as the offender." Ron Jackson/El Centro Hispaño:"Our similarities greatly outweigh our differences. We're working together for a common cause."

That common cause is racial harmony in a city that's becoming more diverse.

Chester Jenkins, director of Durham's Human Relations Commission, says the city must follow President Clinton's lead on bridging the racial divide by first talking and then taking action. "The Latino community, the Hispanic community, the black community, the white.. the Asian. Let's get together and talk about what we can do to make Durham the best place that it can be."

Jenkins says the city is looking at how crimes against Hispanics might be hate crimes. But El Centro Hispaño believes the crimes are not motivated by hate... but by opportunity. Members say the crimes do not reflect one community against another... but as acts of individuals.

On Thursday, City Manager Lamont Ewell will hold a news conference to discuss the city's efforts to stop the violence against Durham's Hispanic community and others.