America has a listening problem. Over the next five days The Daily Item wants to change that.

Stop and listen to the 10 voices we will feature beginning today and running through Thursday. That is all they want, to be heard.

“They” in this instance are 10 neighbors, shop owners, friends, educators and activists. “They” are also Black.

Beginning today and running through Thursday, The Daily Item will feature voices of 10 Black members of our community. Their stories are different, yet the same.

One tells of being bullied on a school bus in fifth grade. Another, who owns a business, says customers come into his shop and ask for the owner, missing the fact that the Black man they are talking to could possibly be the owner.

In writing about NASCAR’s handling of the incident involving Bubba Wallace this week, Washington Post columnist Jerry Brewer wrote that we continue to “put too much power in symbols and institutions, which has a way of turning us all into faceless nobodies distinguishable only by superficial traits such as skin color. Just to get beyond the surface of racism, we first have to cure this instinct to dehumanize, this inclination to draw conclusions from appearances.”

The fact that these individuals featured will look differently than more than 90 percent of the Valley should not matter. In fact, that is the very reason you should spend the time to watch and read these critical messages.

The stories that appear in the newspaper beginning today are purposefully shorter than many that appear. The reason is because we want them — Harvey Edwards, Regina Russell, Sierra Medina, Nisan Trotter, Jason Little, Abdullah Azim Haywood, Tony and Frank Manzano, Kareem Williams and Anthony Leonard — to tell their stories.

Their voices are the priority and right we can all learn so much by just listening.

One way to make progress in today’s climate is to not just hear what they say, but the way they say it. With a wide range of emotion — from sadness to anger, from disgust to fear — they tell us where they came from and how where they live shape who they are and why they think some things need to be changed.

Listen with some empathy because the overwhelming majority of people in this Valley don’t understand what it is like to walk in their shoes.

This is the first step to what we hope becomes a dialogue, that we can begin to communicate in a meaningful and civil way for a change that makes us all better.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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