Panelists share their feelings, views on racism: ‘Respect each other’

  • Greenfield residents Dick and Jeanne Hall ring the bell of the All Souls Church in Greenfield in honor of Juneteenth last year. The Halls were two of the panelists who participated in a talk on racism that was co-hosted by South Deerfield’s Tilton Library and the Deerfield Inclusion Group on Wednesday. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Gloria Matlock, pictured at left, was one of the panelists who participated in a talk on racism that was co-hosted by South Deerfield’s Tilton Library and the Deerfield Inclusion Group on Wednesday. Contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 2/11/2021 6:28:31 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — When either of his sons are on the road, Dick Hall calls to make sure “they arrived in the same way the left.”

“There is no way as a Black father I can trust my sons to come back home the same way they went, and for no fault of their own,” Hall said at a virtual panel on racism Wednesday evening. “And that, my friend, is one hell of a thing to think about every day.”

Hall was speaking in response to a question asked by Allen Davis, who moderated the panel co-hosted by Tilton Library and the Deerfield Inclusion Group. Allen asked the three panelists — Dick Hall, Jeanne Hall and Gloria Matlock, all of Greenfield — about their feelings and thoughts since the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died May 25 under the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis, and the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6.

“To watch that, that just tore a hole in my heart, because I was saying, ‘That could be my sons,’” Jeanne Hall said about Floyd. “That could be any Black family’s son, or brother or uncle.”

She added that the incident demonstrated that America is not, in fact, “exceptional” or better than the rest of the world, as some perceive it to be.

As for the incident at the Capitol, panelist Matlock said she hadn’t wanted to believe anything would happen.

“My first thought was, if it was any Black person … it would have been a whole horse of a different color,” she said. “Guards would have been called in; we would have been sprayed. The worst that could have happened would have happened to us.”

Each of the panelists detailed their own experiences with racism in Franklin County, which ranged from stares from other residents to encounters with police.

“It’s gotten a little bit better, because we’ve been here for a long time, but there’s still some incidences,” Jeanne Hall said. “Being Black all my life, I can tell when people are looking at me. I just ignore them, as long as they don’t say anything.”

Following a discussion on white privilege and the concept of white superiority, Davis acknowledged that it was only recently he became aware of his white privilege.

“It’s only recently that I’ve had to admit, from reading and conversations with Black people, that I’ve had racist beliefs, because that’s what I’ve consumed all of my life,” he said. “I’m more aware of it now.”

Davis addressed the belief that Black people are responsible for fixing the treatment of Black people by white people.

“One would have to admit there was some wrongdoing, and nobody wants to feel they’ve done something wrong,” Matlock said.

It also comes down to an inability to part with white privilege, she said.

“It’s so much easier,” Jeanne Hall added. “(White people) are in their comfort zone.”

But what can be done, then, Davis asked, to build an equitable community?

Matlock recalled a film she made, “Just Another Mile,” which documented the rural community she grew up in that for 55 years lacked electricity, running water, roads or a sewer.

“It took 55 years for us to be able to have electricity,” she said. “It wasn’t this group or that group, or this group and this group, competing with each other. … We all worked together as one, as a unit.”

Jeanne Hall said what’s most important is “we have to want it.”

“We can talk about … working together as a community, but if we don’t want to do it, it’s not going to happen,” she said. “Respect each other. Respect people’s thoughts. Don’t try to degrade people.”

“We all have a lot in common,” she added.

As for the role white people have in addressing the problem of racism, Jeanne Hall said that it has to come from the heart.

“I don’t know … what is in someone else’s heart,” she said. “That is something that person has to work on.”

The panelists offered different organizations and causes that audience members can partake in to further their anti-racism efforts, including Racial Justice Rising and a social justice group at the All Souls Church in Greenfield, which hosts an anti-racism film festival every year.

Dick Hall also suggested supporting the U.S. Negro College Fund.

“Not all of our folks are middle class Black people looking at you through Zoom right now,” he said. “We have a lot of deserving kids who need a hand up, not a hand out.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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