READING, PA (June 2, 2020) – There’s a lot to love about Berks County. But, above all, I love Berks County’s diversity. I love its rolling hills, sweeping fields, beautiful forests, welcoming neighborhoods, and urban vibrancy. Some of us live in rural communities that are sparsely populated. Some of us live in suburbs, towns or a city. We are black. We are white. We are Hispanic. We are Asian. We are a mélange of sexual orientations. Some of us are dyed-in-the-wool liberals, others are fiercely conservative.
We are what America looks like.
And we are in pain.
As we struggle with a massive pandemic and its effects on the health and economy of our community and nation, we are being tested in other ways.
Across the country, people are expressing their anger and frustration with structural racism that seems to defy solution. But seeing peaceful demonstrations disrupted by forces that seek to divide us is an additional gut-punch to us all.
In Berks County, a neo-Nazi group recently targeted the LGBT Center of Greater Reading with acts of intimidation.
Voices of hate don’t reflect the values of Berks Countians.
I hope we will use this time to do three things:
First, let’s celebrate those who reflect the true values of Berks Countians. They’re the people who stood in their front yards and waved at graduating high school seniors driving by this week. They’re the nonprofit leaders who came together to build new ways for people to access food. They’re the peaceful demonstrators who marched through Reading — while being supported by our local police.
Secondly, let’s be clear that we do not embrace the voices of hatred. For those who would seek to disrupt a peaceful protest, whether you are from the right or the left, we don’t need you in Berks County. For those who would seek to attack people because of who they are or who they love — you should move along. You’re not going to change the fact that we’re an incredibly diverse group of people who get along and disagree without becoming hostile. In short, it’s your time you’re wasting, not ours.
Finally, we need to have conversations in Berks County about how we can do better. The fact that we spend $13,612 per student in the Reading School District, but $18,220 per student across the street in Wyomissing is structural racism. Our broken local judicial system jails twice as many people for not being able to pay fines than any other Pennsylvania county. That’s being jailed for being poor and it’s unjust.
These are conversations worth having, and we’re committed to making sure they happen. We love Berks County too much to do anything less.
Kevin K. Murphy, President
Berks County Community Foundation