DURHAM — Clergy, civil rights activists and others have organized a conference to examine thorny issues of class bias, racism and sexual violence exposed by the Duke University lacrosse team investigation.
"What is happening in Durham begs the need for a serious facing of prevailing realities, which have deep historical roots and pain," the Rev. William J. Barber, president of the NAACP state conference, told reporters Thursday.
Faith leaders and others will meet May 24 at First Presbyterian Church, 305 E. Main St. for the "Durham Conference on Moral Challenges of Our Culture: Race, Sexual and Domestic Violence, Racism, Classism and the Media."
Nearly a dozen people gathered Thursday morning to talk about the framework of the discussion.
Rabbi John Friedman of Judea Reform Congregation said the media interest in the incident has been for the wrong reasons.
"The right reasons, the good things that might come out of this include a heartfelt discussion of the fissures in our culture ... materialism, racism, sexism, all of these issues are only externalizations of problems in the way we teach our children to look at the world," Friedman said. "Questions of masculinity, questions of what it is to live a decent life, how one should relate to other people -- these are all the central questions that this incident lays before us."
Clergy who stood with Barber said they had been remiss in not delving into the fissures, that change would come only by exposing the root of the problem.
"Someone once said the only person that it's impossible to wake up is someone that is only pretending to be asleep, and I think this is a wake-up call to our community," said the Rev. Joe Harvard, pastor of First Presbyterian Church.
Staff writer Anne Blythe can be reached at 932-8741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.