Dallas Faith Leaders Help Start Conversation About Race

Pastors Richie Butler and Eric Folkerth come from different backgrounds. As protests continue, we asked them to help start a conversation about race.

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Following days of protests in the streets of North Texas and around the country, two Dallas pastors discussed how to start a conversation about race.

"There are three things we don't talk about in our society: politics, religion and race," Senior Pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church Richie Butler said. "If black people could have solved the issue of race, it would have been solved a long time ago. We need our white brothers and sisters to fully engage in this."

Butler is black. Eric Folkerth, senior pastor of Kessler Park United Methodist Church, is white. Both are members of Faith Forward Dallas.

"It's a 400-year-old problem in America," Folkerth said of racism. "White people often don't want to talk about race because they really do sincerely want to believe things are better, but there are clear unequal treatments of white people and people of color."

The conversation followed days of protests after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

"I classify the protests as righteous indignation," Butler said. "What's happening is just representative of the cancer in our society and how it is slowly eating away at us."

"White people tend to see the violence, and that unfortunately stops the conversation," Folkerth said. "What I see in the violence as is the anger, and the frustration, and the hopelessness."

Photos: Cleanup Begins in Downtown Dallas, Deep Ellum After Protests Over George Floyd’s Death

Both said change is uncomfortable. It starts each individual taking the first step.

"Raise your voice and use your voice," Folkerth said. "Don't just sign a petition. Don't just post on Facebook."

"Our job as faith leaders and community leaders is to create forums where people can engage and where they can open themselves up to become vulnerable to one another," Butler said. "Because I promise you, after that engagement you will see them differently and they will probably see you differently."

For those looking for a forum, Butler started Project Unity, which hosts dinners and gatherings to bring about conversations between people of different backgrounds.

"I have hope," Folkerth said. "And I believe God can turn the biggest mess into something beautiful."

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