LIMA — As the debate around structural racism continues, local businessman Jerome O’Neal sees the moment as an indicator of generational change in beliefs surrounding inclusivity and diversity.
O’Neal spoke about the inflection point during a public officials dialogue held Wednesday via Zoom, when he detailed what’s been happening at the local level as protests across the country call for societal shifts in how Americans view race and race relations.
“We’re having it made clear that what’s acceptable in the past needs to be changed,” O’Neal said. “Racially insensitive remarks and positions are no longer going to be acceptable.”
As an example of such an attitude, O’Neal spoke about an interaction he had with his college-aged son, who noticed the lack of racial diversity of the crowd during a church service. The remark caught O’Neal off guard, and he said that young people especially will have new expectations going forward, even if older generations have yet to see the world changing. Those communities who fail to keep up with the conversation will have a harder time staying relevant.
As for Lima, O’Neal said he’s been actively making moves to encourage diversity on a structural level.
Those initiatives include expanding the diversity of board representation among decision-makers, establishing training programs for those interested in joining a board, increasing the number of Black police officers by instituting a scholarship that puts interested students through Apollo Career Center’s police academy program, creating a Makerspace to encourage diversity and entrepreneurship and continuing to organize the Community Enrichment Dinner.
“If you think it’s going to be a passing fad, it’s not,” O’Neal said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.