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Melvin Jones is a CPA and a volunteer. He moved to Charleston with his family in the 1990s to work in the chemical industry. He recently retired from his second career with West Virginia State University. 

“There’s a lot of work ahead of us, and it is also a lot more difficult than it was. The signposts are different. When I was young, there were signs at lunch counters and bathrooms and on buses, but they’re gone now. In the south you knew where you stood and in the north you really didn’t. In the south, racism was more evident. Here in the north, people were nice to your face, but they whispered when you left. 

Because it’s not popular to be a racist, you don’t always know where some people stand. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it is indifference. We’ve moved from hate to indifference. It is a slow path to where we want to be, but the kids coming up are the bright spot. There is a basic goodness in people, but people believe they are right in what they believe. I was president of the Urban League in Mobile, Alabama, so I’ve been at this a long time. 

The world distributes ability fairly, but not opportunity. And when it comes to working against racism and discrimination, it is easy to get deflated about things, but you just have to keep at it. There is a dichotomy to how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go. For example, I never thought I’d see a black president in my lifetime. Yet he can’t get a cab any easier than I can in New York City.   

I am persistent, so I know we can’t help
but succeed.”

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