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Tocqueville Society Member Irene Lazzara Reflects on Inaugural Civil Rights Conference

October 25, 2022

Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson presenting at the inaugural Civil Rights Conference.


The inaugural Civil Rights Conference was a success, bringing more than 250 people together to reflect on the history of race relations in Jacksonville and explore ways to create a more equitable community for all.  

For Tocqueville Society member Irene Lazzara, the Civil Rights Conference was an opportunity to understand the history of race relations in our country and community as well as connect with revered leaders in the space. While Irene said she wasn’t sure what to expect, she was determined to keep an open mind. Pushed a little out of her comfort zone, Irene said she felt invigorated but also acknowledged an underlying feeling of guilt. 

“I know it is not politically correct to feel collective guilt for past events I had no active participation in; however, it was not guilt because of my race, per se,” said Irene. “It was more a general realization of the ease that the majority (or powerful) can justify and rationalize actions that affect fellow human beings in a negative way.” Even so, Irene said she believes guilt is a useless emotion unless it inspires meaningful change.  

For her, the conference was a reminder of the common ground that binds us. Irene said she left with a better understanding of systemic and structural racism and “how it unintentionally can permeate our views on race without our conscious consent.” Irene said she believes creating spaces like the Civil Rights Conference is important because it gives opportunities to learn and understand through honest communication. 

Thank you to Irene and all Tocqueville Society members for your support of the conference through attendance and sponsorships.