America Talks is a feature dedicated to giving people from across the country an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas on the President's Initiative on Race.
Beyond Black and White
The dichotomy of black and white in talking about race is dated and false. It ignores the reality that today's America is a multiracial society where Hispanics, Asians, and other groups are becoming large components of the population. Further, today's bl ack and white people are not simply the offspring of slaves and slave owners-- a large portion of both blacks and whites are immigrants and their kids. Bogging down the nation in the antagonism of black versus white hurts everybody. Diversity should go beyond dichotomy. In light of totally different socio-demographic reality, racial preference should be stopped. No one would argue that Asians are underrepresented in professional sports, it does not make sense to force quota or proportional represent ation in higher education or other professional labor forces. Human groups differ in their strengths in different things. Legally forcing equal representation in occupations actually drags the society into homogeneity, not diversity, nor progress.
Action on Campus
I am a senior at Syracuse University and have been very involved in many diversity programs in my three years here. I have worked with many organizations and committees across campus to help in the education of not only tolerance but acceptance.
Last September I helped to chair and organize a rally about diversity and community and the detrimental effects of hate speech. We called it "Planting the Seeds: A Speak Out Against Hate." Many student organizations, university offices, and over 400 students came together to speak or listen about the ideals of community and diversity and what people can do as individuals. Although the event was prompted by the presence of Dr. Khalid Muhammad on our campus, the speak out retained a pro-active and positive tone. Organizations that sponsored the event include Hillel, Jewish Student Union, Pride Union (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Students), Office of Multicultural Affairs, Office of African American Programs at Hendricks Chapel, Muslim Ministry, Lutheran Ministry, Alibrandi Catholic Centre, Interdenominational Protestant Ministry, Residence Hall Association, and Office of Residence Life.
I would be interested in hearing what others have done on their university campuses or in their towns to promote racial harmony.
Keep up the great work that this program has started.
Reaction to a One America Conversation
I took part in a One America forum last night about race relations in Stafford VA.. I have a couple of impressions and suggestions I would like to share.
It was somewhat disappointing that the conversation got bogged down in the question of whether racism has gotten better or worse. Regardless of the answer, the important question is what can we DO to make the situation even better? For example, one is sue that affects minorities to a disproportionate degree is child immunization rates. To know (for example) that only 10 in 1000 children today are not immunized is hardly more than an interesting fact, or at most, a launching point. We still have work t o do to get that number down to zero. And we would have that work whether that number is better or worse than the statistic from twenty years ago. So I hope that further conversations should focus on the action, and not on trying to reach a consensus on mere facts.
As for ideas of what can be done, I suggest some community arts projects. For example, to make music in a group, you have to get along. Teaching children in music also builds skills in math, and engages the mind and physical well-being. Artistic activi ties, especially ones that are engaged in as a community, relieve boredom (and the sometimes resultant mischief), and build bridges across community lines. For example, some communities have an open-attendance Christmas sing-along (and some groups have m onthly meetings where each person is invited to share and teach a song). The type of music should be varied, to appeal to the greatest number of people. Painting murals on an ugly facade is also a great community-building project.
I hope this can be of some help.
Lori C. Fraind
One Middle School's Response
I am a middle school principal in Racine, Wisconsin. I have downloaded and printed the information provided. I plan to share it with my assistant principals on Wednesday. My goal is to make a school project out of the goals. One thing I would really like to see is the President coming to Racine for one of his town meetings. Among other things, our school district voluntarily desegregated successfully in 1974. Furthermore, our city and surrounding suburbs have become more or less naturally integrated. We do, however, have a significant minority population in the inner city, showing that we still have work to do. As we develop plans, I will share them.
John R. Nickelsen
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