If the stated goal of a particular program is to reach out to people of all walks in an effort to encourage "multiculturalism," and better serve residents in the "diverse" community, then why would that program be closed to the public? Seems a bit counterintuitve, doesn't it?
Nonetheless, that seems to be the case with a pilot program created by Chesterfield County Virginia's Multicultural Advisory Commission. The pilot, set to launch Thursday, is said to "improve county dialogue with its diverse communities." The Richmond Times Dispatch states that the commission will hold a series of moderated focus groups across the county to address issues including education, public safety, health, housing and business development. And, it's sure to be quite a melting pot...except that the meetings do not seem to include representatives from the Caucasian or Christian communities, respectively:
Imad Damaj, vice chairman of the commission, said representatives of Asian, Latino and African-American communities will attend the first focus group, along with a representative of a Muslim group. Nonprofits, including homeless organizations, are included in the discussion, along with government officials from the county's fire, police and school system. Minority business owners have also been invited.
"This is the first effort where the county is reaching to these different community leaders," said Damaj, a native of Lebanon and president of the Virginia Muslim Coalition. "We're hoping to learn from these communities.
"What are the challenges for them in living in Chesterfield County? How can we serve them better?" he asked. "What do we need to do to make Chesterfield a better place for their business? Are we serving them in schools and social services well?"
According to the 2010 census, the county's population is 21 percent black, 3 percent Asian and 2 percent multiracial. Seven percent of county residents are Latino, and 7 percent are foreign-born.
The goal of the commission, which reports to the Board of Supervisors, is to identify the concerns and interests of its minority communities. It also seeks to promote cultural understanding and inclusiveness of those groups within the county.
Dale District Supervisor James M. "Jim" Holland said the commission was formed, in part, so that the supervisors can make informed decisions about its various constituencies. He said as the county further diversifies, "it's even more relevant."
It seems many distinct communities are going to be represented in Chesterfield County, however, Christians, Jews, and Caucasians in general seem to be completely left out.
Chesterfield County does seem quite concerned about its Hispanic community, however.
"That's [Hispanic] a community we need to be aware of and communicate with and be attentive of," Holland said.
He also alleged that it is important for the county's diverse groups to have a place at the table when it comes time to make important important decisions. Holland's stated priority is that "we are hearing them and their concerns are understood and addressed."
"I've learned to appreciate the beautiful diversity we have and the significant asset it is in making our community have a really high quality of life," Holland said. "It helps us be a far more globally educated community."
All well and good, however, the meeting is also, apparently, not open to the public. Now doesn't that basically defeat the purpose?
(H/T: Doc Thompson)