Dayton Gets Real: Hundreds gather at Dayton Arcade to learn ways of healing racial divisions

DAYTON — Hundreds of people gathered at the Dayton Arcade on Thursday to make plans to heal racial divisions and stop inequities that are still happening.

The event, “Imagining Community Symposium,” was sponsored by the University of Dayton and was about imagining a community that is less divided and more united.

Shannon Nicks, from the Center for Health Equity at Dayton Children’s Hospital, spoke at the a session Thursday.

“People of color, communities of color continue to be left out of the decision-making process,” Nicks said.

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The symposium was looking at economic opportunities. housing, education and the judicial system. One way Nicks said she sees unequal medical care being perpetuated is whether a person has insurance and what kind of insurance they have.

“I think it does make a difference and plays a big role in how our system is set up to serve people,” Nicks said.

Speakers on Thursday encouraged people to educate themselves about historical wrongs. This was highlighted by a display in the Arcade rotunda on redlining, a practice of bank lending that led to homes loans being approved along color lines, leading to a division of races.

Chad Sloss, a sociology professor at the University of Dayton, said that was why Dayton was “one of the most segregated cities in the country.” Sloss said redlining led to the Great Miami River becoming a dividing line in Dayton, with African Americans mostly being approved for homes in west Dayton and white residents being approved for home loans East of the river or in suburbs.

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While redlining is no longer in use, Sloss said it doesn’t mean discrimination doesn’t still take place in lending practices.

“The term we really need to look for is ‘discretionary policy,’” Sloss said.

All of the speakers at the symposium said that acknowledging these platforms is a good first step, but for radical disparities to end, they said, all people must speak to those outside their comfort zone.

“People we are not familiar with, that don’t live in our neighborhood, that don’t look like us, that have different professions, then you see that exchange,” Sloss said.

Roughly 500 people registered to attend this two-day conference, but organizers said for it to be successful those 500 people must speak to five to 10 other people, spreading what they learned.