'Racism' brought up at Charlotte Chamber retreat - | WBTV Charlotte

'Racism' brought up at Charlotte Chamber retreat

(Dedrick Russell | WBTV) (Dedrick Russell | WBTV)
(Dedrick Russell | WBTV) (Dedrick Russell | WBTV)
(Dedrick Russell | WBTV) (Dedrick Russell | WBTV)

The Charlotte Chamber has started its Fall Planning Retreat. More than 150 people have gathered at the Grove Park Inn to discuss the future of Charlotte and to develop strategies to make the community better for all.

The theme of the retreat is "Together for Tomorrow." The opening session started with speakers Harvey Gantt and Hugh McColl Jr.

The question was asked of both men their reflection of the recent protests and riots after a police officer shot and killed an African American man. Many thought it was unjustified, while the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department believes the shooting was justified. Gantt told the crowd when he saw the riots he was concerned.

"As a former mayor, when you see your city looking like it's going to burn down, people are looting - you feel as if your own house is burning," Gantt said.

The former Charlotte mayor said the riots uncovered a problem that needs to be discussed. He believes the city needs to do a deep dive on racism in Charlotte. He said people are angry and city leaders need to figure out a way to make that anger go away. He also believes city leaders need to build reconciliation and look at how racism is grappling Charlotte. 

The committee should consist of people from diverse backgrounds.

"They need to be able to do it in a safe place where, when I get up and express my views, I won't be called a racist or a wild-eyed liberal or an African American trying to get more welfare from the government," Gantt said.

Former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl believes the protests showed there is a problem in Charlotte. He told the crowd it appears Charlotte is not a good place for everybody to live. He said the focus needs to be on housing and jobs for people who struggle to make ends meet in Charlotte.

"If we just mouth platitudes and think everything is going to be fine, it's not," McColl said, "so we need to come away with a plan."

Governor Pat McCrory addressed the crowd as well, saying discussion needs to happen to heal the community. He said that is the Charlotte way.

"Have that serious conversation," the Governor said. "Have that dialogue and come up with viable solutions together."

Also discussed was North Carolina's House Bill 2. A panel of Charlotte Sports leaders who conducted a panel said the controversial law has impacted NC.

"I just think it is going to take a compromise from a bunch of people that really want to see a resolution happen so we can get on with business in North Carolina," Charlotte Hornets President/COO Fred Whitfield said.

The retreat ends Wednesday with a discussion of how to turn the talk into action.

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