Panel discussion on race in the suburbs Thursday

Kent County

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Cascade Community Foundation is hosting a virtual panel discussion Thursday morning to talk about race in the suburbs, specifically what it’s like to live there for people of color.

The goal is to both ask and answer questions in hopes of creating a stronger community.

“I think right now our country is in the midst of two pandemics, we have COVID-19 and systemic racism,” said Ken James, a board member of the Cascade Community Foundation.

James has lived in Cascade Township for 12 years and even though he’s not new to the area, he says from time to time he still faces microaggressions.

“In my local grocery store, sometimes I have been asked when I put my items on the conveyor belt, you know, ‘Is this a WIC purchase?’ I’m not minimizing that program, WIC is a very powerful program, but why would someone want to ask me that where they didn’t ask the person before me or the person after me that happened to be a different race,” said James.

This is why James is spearheading the effort to bridge the gap.

“We thought, let’s have a larger discussion on what it’s like to be a person of color in the suburbs, particularly Cascade, Forest Hills, Ada area,” said James.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2019, Cascade Township’s make up was 92% White, 5% Asian, 3% Hispanic, and less than 1% Black.

Justin Swan is the CEO of the foundation and says the questions submitted to panelists were done so anonymously.

“It gives people a really strong opportunity to ask without ever feeling like they’re going to get tagged or they’re going to get judgement placed upon them,” said Swan.

Both men agree this will give people a chance to work toward a more accepting future.

“I do believe that familiarity brings about awareness, so if we get to know one another we’ll be aware of more issues and it’ll just be a benefit to all of us going forward,” said James.

The discussion will be live-streamed Thursday morning beginning at 9 a.m. More information can be found online.

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