One group was all African-Americans. The other was all white people.

They met on separate nights, and were among 26 gatherings this year to discuss anger, fear and frustration in the country.

The two racially segregated groups were asked to explore guns, crime and race. Today’s stories represent those two sessions.

Their observations were starkly different.

A Medina County man in the white group said race relations have never been better. A West Akron woman in the black group said relations have never been worse. Both were college-educated professionals.

A woman in the black community said she has a gun in the house and the family has code words and escape routes in the event of an attack. She had to pull the gun and put the escape plan into action one evening.

A white man in a rapidly growing suburb was forced to think about the same thing after he stumbled into a drug-addicted neighbor rummaging through his bedroom. He has a conceal-carry permit, guns in the house, but they were in lockboxes at the time of the invasion. He had no backup plan.

The man whose house was invaded talked about the rules and expectations for his two young sons. A woman in the black group broke down. Her son was shot and killed a few months earlier at a convenience store.

Their hopes — security, respect and something better for their children — were much the same, but their life experiences and level of expectations were far different.

The person who designed the strategy for exploring those emotions was Alice Rodgers, a researcher who nearly 20 years ago worked with the Beacon Journal in a yearlong effort to understand race relations in Akron following riots that ripped Los Angeles in 1992.

The newspaper’s work in 1993 spawned the Coming Together Project, a nationally recognized effort which sought to improve understanding of racial differences.

Yet, with the accolades, Akron still grapples with this most basic issue.

You can discuss these issues with your fellow readers here.  

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