Team MDCR in Focus: Charles Schoder
Team MDCR in Focus: Charles Schoder, Community Engagement Division
by Madalyn Mosallam, Communications Intern
"You may not know everything. You may not do everything. All the kids you come across and in all the situations you will be in -- if you are kind to people, they will remember that more than anything else." Charles Schoder
If there is one word to describe Charles Schoder, it would certainly be ambitious. I had the absolute honor to speak with him regarding his experiences with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) and the Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust (ALPACT) and feel that a reflection on his experiences is noteworthy.
Charles began his childhood in the heart of southeast Michigan: the city of Detroit. When he was twenty, he moved to the suburbs and began working as a temporary employee at the MDCR, with little to no understanding of what the job entailed. Fast forward to adulthood, he finds himself maintaining the same job that began his career as an adolescent. He fell in love with the work and grew a passion for the profession. He explained how on the first day, he was introduced to many brilliant individuals who began to teach him more about the department's goals and mission. Growing up in Detroit, he was surrounded by those who consistently faced adversity and were submerged in a discriminatory environment. The department directly works towards the implementation of anti-discriminatory directed goals and aims to balance the adversity, while addressing the inequalities that he saw growing up. This mission and vision inspired him, which caused him to realize that this is the place he wanted to be.
Charles talks about how he began in the mailroom at the department and worked his way up the employment ladder, becoming responsible for assisting people who did such work. He was more than happy to be assisting the people who do such amazing things. Overtime, he grew more in his field and became an investigator for almost ten years which led him to the community engagement division.
In addition to the many things Schoder does in his position in MDCR's Community Engagement Division, he is also involved in ALPACT. ALPACT was originally launched in Detroit by a group of individuals who came together to discuss policing and racial profiling. As we see today, distrust is often a factor in the relationship between communities and police. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police marked a recent turning point. Schoder talks about his work with ALPACT and the effort to rebuild trust between the communities and police. "Bringing people together and through association over time, I have watched relationships and good work blossom out of those sessions. It's not all about showing up to meetings." ALPACT brings people together and allows them to have conversations outside of the meetings as well. It allows people to work together to analyze the various perspectives and views that they may have on the issues communities are facing. "We try to develop a kind of a rapport and familiarity between people and ask them to stay connected outside of meetings." The goal is, in Charles' words, "to humanize the other person." Law enforcement and community are not one, and often the two hold different ideas on how to create a safe community. But even though they have different perspectives on how to do it, they have one common goal: both want to build safe and welcoming communities. ALPACT allows people to realize that we need to work together as one to be one, and to achieve the one goal they all have in common. Schoder is also MDCR's liaison to the Arab American and Muslim American communities in Michigan.
When he began working with the different ethnicities within the Arab American community, he noticed the different challenges each of them faced. Putting himself in their shoes and making sure he kept an open mind allowed him to ensure that he can assist them from a department perspective.
"The capacity to understand and feel for someone else, that's, in my opinion, the definition of empathy. Not just feeling bad for a person but feeling with another person... able to understand, even if you are not a part of a group who is being marginalized, what it would feel like not because of who you are but because of what you are." This is exactly how I saw Charles: An empath. He felt for the individuals and wants to be of help them more than anything else. His work is inspiring and he, as a person, is an inspiration as well.