February 1, 2011 10:21:00 AM
What''s an echo chamber? Literally, it is an enclosed, hollow space allowing our own words to bounce back to us.
Figuratively, the term has applied to most any group that surrounds itself with others that have like-minded opinions. They lock their own narrow viewpoints in, and keep others locked out.
We need fewer echo chambers, not more of them.
Perhaps we''re being cynical, but Lowndes Supervisor Leroy Brooks'' "African-American Leadership Summit," planned for Feb. 5, has all the trappings of an echo chamber. Brooks himself is a polarizing figure, with his own following. And that his "summit" is just for the black community, is exclusionary by design.
"I hoped to bring leaders together in the community and establish a dialogue," Brooks told The Dispatch last week. "There are some problems that are unique to the black community."
We wonder what these problems are -- the ones that black people have but others do not. Negative impacts from crime or the sour economy? The need to better educate our kids? The high cost, or lack of, health care? Poor infrastructure?
Those affect all of us, no matter our race.
Brooks bills the meeting as one of several Black History Month events he says he''s planning. Unfortunately, Brooks'' event epitomizes our collective failure to accept one sad reality -- that our community is desegregated, but it isn''t integrated.
What''s the difference? Desegregation could be described as a court-ordered mandate, such as desegregating a school system. However, our local schools aren''t integrated -- far from it. We divide ourselves, whether it''s by geography or with our checkbooks. Schools are only one example.
Brooks'' meeting is ostensibly open to both white and black leaders, but we have a good idea how many whites will show up.
Of course, we support more black leadership and more ownership of the future of Columbus and Lowndes County by the black community. This, however, can''t be advanced through a meeting like the one Brooks is planning. It can be advanced by black and white leaders coming together, finding common ground, and working toward common goals.
This (and every) month, let''s celebrate the contributions of blacks in this area, past and present. But let''s also come to terms with the fact that we''re more alike than we are different. Let''s find more ways to join together, not separate ourselves.