Racial Trust-Building Initiative in Troup County

The Troup County Racial Trust-Building Initiative continued last weekend, as Hope in the Cities from Richmond, VA helped conduct a twoday course intended to shed light on the state of race relations in our community and each individual’s culpability in it. The training focused on recognizing and attempting to overcome internal biases about race through honest, open dialogue.

The trust-building initiative began in 2015 as the mayors of the three Troup County cities and former County Commission Chair Ricky Wolfe set out to find a way to work through the county’s history of racial injustice and bridge the racial gap among citizens. To do so, they partnered with Hope in the Cities, a group that has been working on resolving these issues for nearly three decades. Based in Richmond, Virginia, the team travels the nation working on race reconciliation efforts.

Though turnout was relatively small for the most recent course—a level-one course in trust-building—the program has trained over three hundred individuals in Troup County, including every major as well as several public officials and members of law enforcement. The racial split in training is usually even while women are more likely to come out than men.

The recent training kicked off in West Point Friday, June 8th. The course attracted a diverse selection of people from several different areas of employment.

The course instructors, known as Cricket and Tee, worked to foster an inclusive environment that allowed people to speak comfortably and freely about the issues. Activities were designed so that individuals could recognize and admit their conscious and subconscious biases against members of another race.

According to Tee, the process involves peeling back layers of oneself and measuring oneself “in the mirror” against his or her own core values. This process of recognizing biases is a multi-way street and works for members of all races, even those who have suffered from a multitude of historical and current injustices.

Though the program’s methods and what was said during the meeting remain confidential, the outcome is clear. Participants in the two-day program left with a better understanding of the ideas and feelings of the other race, equipped with the tools and mindset necessary to carry out further reflection. With thoughtprovoking discussion and well-guided discourse, the program addresses many issues regarding racial trustbuilding in our community as well as the nation at large.

Since its conception, the Troup County Racial Trust-Building Initiative has proven successful. The program helped make national headlines when LaGrange Police Department formally apologized for the wrongful death of Austin Callaway in the 1940s. Callaway was lynched by an angry mob of white men after being accused of assault on a white woman. Callaway never had the opportunity for trial, nor was any guilt ever proven in the case.

When the police department apologized in January 2017, the story earned national recognition, earning coverage from major media networks such as CNN. With the national narrative focused on both alleged and real police brutality in the past few years, the Austin Callaway apology was seen by many to be one of the first steps of many needed to help change the status quo and mending white-black relations with each other as well as with law enforcement.

The apology proved especially important, as individuals who still living in Troup County were alive and affected by the incident. Several law enforcement officers have been through the racial trust-building program with hopes of restoring the trust law enforcement had in all communities.

A level-two training will be held next month. The Racial Trust-Building Initiative continues to work for improved relations within our community.

The author of this article can be reached via email at jboggs@troupcounynews.n et.