The first ERACISM meeting was held last year during Black History Month. Bay County’s CAIR Coordinator Hiba Rahim said a Part 2 was necessitated amid the spotlight on race relations nationwide. About 90 people were in virtual attendance.

PANAMA CITY — To have an informed opinion about what's happening with the fallout following the killing of George Floyd, and the subsequent shift in race relations in America, challenging your own personal experiences and prejudices are key.


Muslim civil rights group Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida held a virtual panel last week to do just that. The Zoom meeting titled ERACISM II included speakers from local organizations that advocate for equality and civil rights.


The first ERACISM meeting was held last year during Black History Month. Bay County’s CAIR Coordinator Hiba Rahim said a Part 2 was necessitated amid the spotlight on race relations nationwide. About 90 people were in virtual attendance.


"We weren’t sure how well attended it would be, but certainly people are interested in learning and challenging their own personal narratives and notions," Rahim said. "Our target audience were people who were curious and wanted to know, and ... people who carry racial prejudice. That’s a very important part of our audience that we need to reach."


The meeting began with a short overview of the origin of racism in America. Citing law literature, local attorney Christine Smallwood Miranda pointed to a 1676 armed labor strike against colonial rule in Virginia known as Bacon's Rebellion, which largely included both white and black indentured servants and enslaved people.


"White people as a people did not exist in a law until 1681. When the indentured servants came to America ... (they) received their freedom by will or by way of purchase of their freedom were on equal footing with white people — they ate, slept, worked together," Miranda said. "This disparity did not occur in terms of race until after the Bacon Rebellion. After Bacon's Rebellion, according to the law, laws were enacted to prevent that kind of socialization from occurring which resulted in privileges for white people."


"Citizenship was tied into being white, home ownership, land ownership, the right to vote, and right to possess guns," she said later.


Often unsung notes, such as Miranda's origin of racism, give opportunities to change the way people feel toward the history of racism. According to Rahim, the conversation gave people "an opportunity to listen."


"Until you give yourself that chance, you just don’t know. I mean that literally, you do not know the history, the struggle, the impact of one on the other," she said.


The virtual forum included a range of multi-media resources, such as videos and polls. One question answered by Janice Lucas, executive director at LEAD Coalition of Bay County, spoke to an often echoed sentiment by people who claim not to see race at all.


"Do you not see gender," Lucas said. "We allow those distinctions because they are real and we would be naive to think otherwise."


From the virtual meeting, Rahim said the next step is to move into action, as "was evident by the questions coming in."


"Based on the survey responses, it was apparent that people were asking for direction ... where do we go from here," she said.


Maintaining ERACISM is just a platform for discussion, "from that dialogue we invite people to join movements that already exist," Rahim said, listing civil rights and community organizations. "All of which you can contribute your time, your energy, your wealth to empower these organizations and in doing so empowering communities that need support."


For more information about Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida, contact Hiba Rahim directly at hrahim@cair.com.