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Neighbors talk racism in South Bend

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Tough talks and uncomfortable conversations are inspiring friends, neighbors and strangers to explore racism in South Bend.

“These are uncomfortable conversations, which is why there are so many barriers to overcoming them, because people don’t want to be uncomfortable,” said resident Lety Stanton-Verduzzo.

The South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center hosted a panel event Friday.

Participants say they wanted the city’s voice included in the ongoing conversation about race in America.

“It’s not simply just about us as an individual; it’s also about the recognition that there is an invisible system in place,” said one panelist.

Systemic racism is being talked about a lot after the unrest that happened in Charlottesville.

“It comes from the IUSB Black Student Union,” said George Garner, a curator at the Civil Rights Heritage Center. “Students who were deeply affected by it, students who saw what was happening and wanted to take that step and make that stand.”

The footage from Charlottesville triggered a tough talk at the Civil Rights Heritage Center, drawing more than 100 folks from the area.

“It’s so important to listen, and it’s going to make you uncomfortable and it’s going to challenge a lot of everything you’ve used to make sense of your life,” said another panelist.

“One of the things that i heard in there that i like was “be prepared to be uncomfortable, be ok being uncomfortable,” said Stanton-Verduzzo.

That also meant taking a close look at what’s happening here at home.

“You don’t know what the issues are? Are you really that confused? You don’t see the rundown housing? I guess if you’re not going up and down western you don’t see it, but it’s very real,” said another panelist.

“A lot of points were raised today about things not being taken care of on the west side,” said resident Kiana Jackson. “You see a lot of progression as a whole as a really exciting time for south bend but then you see there is a forgotten people and i just want to be a light for that people.”

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