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Clay Jenkins: Conversations About Race, Policing A 'Living Monument' To Slain Officers

Gus Contreras
For this week's Friday Conversation, Jenkins sits down with KERA's vice president of news, Rick Holter.

When President Obama stepped off Air Force One this week, a familiar face was there to greet him on the tarmac at Love Field. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins was once again meeting the commander in chief while guiding his county through a crisis. Two years ago it was Ebola. This week, it was the deaths of five officers at the hands of a gunman.

For this week's Friday Conversation, Jenkins sits down with KERA's vice president of news, Rick Holter.


Interview highlights: Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins...


...On seeing Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Police Chief David Brown lead together:

“I think what we have [is] unity and coming together on the government side, and then on the community side is something that we have in common in all of these stressful situations. Whether it be what you saw with Ebola ... or what we saw with West Nile virus when that claimed 20 lives. When you go through things like that, I'm trying to be there as best as I can be there for Mike Rawlings. He's leading this response. He was there for me when I led the Ebola response. It's something we're good at coming together here in Dallas.”


...On where we are when it comes to race relations:

“I think the racial divide in this country goes back centuries. And I think where we are in this, we have clearly moved forward if you go back 20 to 50 years, and you look at where we are now. We're moving forward and yet, a black family is going to have a different conversation with their children about interaction with the police than a white family.”

...On how to bring people into conversations about race:

“This is an opportunity to do that, where we don't talk about it as politicians and preachers, and whatnot. We talk about it as people and we really, really listen to the other person's perspective.”

...On whether the recent crises have helped spread the conversation in North Texas:

“There's a lot that's going on right in Dallas. Words matter, leadership matters, but there's 7 million people in North Texas, and they're going to decide what our community's response is. And for the sake of the lives and the memories of these five officers, I'm asking everybody to come together. This is our moment where we can come together and we can address these problems.”

...On his reaction to part of President Obama's speech at the officer memorial service in Dallas:

The pain we feel may not soon pass, but my faith tells me that they did not die in vain. I believe our sorrow can make us a better country. I believe our righteous anger can be transformed into more justice and more peace. Weeping may endure for a night but I’m convinced joy comes in the morning.

“We've got to bury our dead. I believe joy can come in the morning because I do believe what the president said is right. We've got to address this issue of race in our community, which keeps our community safer, our police safer and young men and women of color safer. And what we're doing today, you and I talking today, it's a little piece of that monument to the lives of these five heroes that we're building -- that is going to be a living monument that's going to serve our community and potentially our country in bringing us closer together.”

Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.