Educate, organize and mobilize — Over the past few weeks we’ve witnessed repeated disclosures of racism that were intended to remain hidden from the eyes and ears of the public. Although the disclosures may very well have shocked large segments of America, the overwhelming majority of Black Americans were not shocked at all. Racism is a 400 year plague on the soul of America that many of us know far too well.
Without recounting every detail of the viciousness and reprehensible conduct shown in the video clip of the University of Oklahoma (UO), it included repeated references to Blacks with the “n-word” and suggestions that recommended lynching Black people. Although the racism included in the OU and other disclosures are always painful reminders of where we are as a country, they continue to offer opportunities for Americans to grow beyond bigotry and become a multi-racial, equal opportunity society.
I believe that the OU chant and the response by its Chancellor, David L. Boren, create a unique opportunity that must be seized. The proof of my point lies in the fact that the racism was intended to remain largely secret from public disclosure. However, the OU and other disclosures have led to demands that light is shown on the hidden sources and forms of racism. Boren added that racism is not a problem only at Oklahoma or among SAE fraternity nationally. There is “an epidemic of racism” across the nation and OU is making strides to end it, he said.
Chancellor Boren said that Americans, institutions, organizations, and individuals could end racism by standing up, letting their voices be heard, and declaring that Americans have zero-tolerance for racism. I whole-heartedly agree and when I heard him on Friday past, I wrote the Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and asked him to accept Boren’s challenge and to ask his Board of Trustees to do the same.
On Friday, March 13th a racist and sexist email allegedly sent by a student fraternity member at the University of Maryland (UM), College Park, surfaced, sparking outrage and fierce debates. UM Student Government Association (SGA) President, Patrick Ronk, said students were shaken by the email. Ronk said the SGA likely will play a role in organizing forums or town hall meetings to discuss racism and issues in Greek organizations. He said he hopes to initiate conversations about the issues, possibly by replicating meetings that were held for students to discuss issues about police brought up by the events in Ferguson, Mo., last year.
The recommendation of Howard Schultz, Starbuck’s CEO, in his “Race Together” conversation initiative appears to have the same over-all objective as that of Chancellor Boren and Patrick Ronk. Many of us know that there are many ongoing attempts to do what they’re recommending and many of us have been involved in such efforts ourselves. As adults, as leaders and as Americans, we can have successful conversations and campaigns to end racism if we have the will. However, knowing that American racism is a 400 year old problem it is important that we properly plan our way forward and set reasonable goals and timelines.
Customize and replicate Boren, Schultz, and Ronk’s ideas on campuses and in communities around the country and you take a big bite out of the plague of racism. I suggest that campus chapters of the NAACP, Black Student Unions (BSA), and other well intended leaders and organizations approach their SGAs and ask them to host “Ronk” forums.
I’m confident that such efforts will bear fruit because I’ve witnessed and been a part of such an effort here in Wilmington, NC. During the 10-15 year life of Partners for Economic Inclusion which was formed in 1997, we had many successful discussions and activities that dealt with racism and that led to better bi-racial understandings and the creation of life-long inter-racial friendships and business relationships. The one thing that is essential to such efforts to succeed is that they have the business, social, and political leaders involved and committed to the efforts. They have to talk the talk and walk the walk. They have to lead by example.
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Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News and www.thethirdreconstruction.com with a primary focus on political, social and economic justice. To support our efforts, to unite our politics and economics, please “Like” and follow us at www.facebook.com/ThirdReconstruction. Please “Share” our articles and post your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our websites www.GreaterDiversity.com and www.thethirdreconstruction.com. Comments can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to like and follow our pages. •