A few weeks ago there was a CNN poll conducted that, for many people, was illuminating. The only part of it illuminating for me was that the numbers weren’t more severe.

The first number was that 49% of the American population thought racism was a big problem. This number is higher than after the O.J. Simpson trial when he was found not guilty. Blacks people came in at 66% and Hispanics came in at 64%. The uptick came from white people who, only 4 years ago thought racism was close to being overcome, now came in at 43%.

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You want another number? When it came to talking about interactions with the criminal justice system, 48% of whites thought the system favored whites while black people came in at 86%; the numbers are similar when the parties are looking at whites and Hispanics.

That’s a pretty big divide isn’t it? When numbers are that big it’s a major issue to tackle. Then why isn’t anyone tackling it?

Because it’s scary to talk about, and most of us don’t like to talk about controversial issues. That’s because in the open they usually generate more hate than communication. All it takes is one person to say the wrong thing in that wrong way and everything breaks down. It’s almost worse than talking about politics and religion… almost that is…

I’m just the guy to offer some suggestions on how we can get closer to making things better. After all, I wrote a post showing how diversity improves our lives, and another one one ways to look at diversity issues. That shows I’m not scared to talk about this issue or any other as it relates to diversity, racism, sexism… anything of the sort. But this one’s about diversity… so here are some recommendations.

First, look inside yourself, see if you have any issues with any groups of people as it pertains to race or religion.

Second, ask yourself if you’ve ever had any thoughts or beliefs about someone of another race that’s negative because of race, whether you’ve manifested it outwardly or not.

Third, ask yourself how you might react if you were in the skin of someone else. This one is hard because most people will say how they’d act based on who they are now, so it requires some real work.

Fourth, ask yourself how willing you would be to participate in a mixed group to discuss the issue. Once again, this is a tougher question than you might think it is. For confirmation, check out this post I wrote in 2006 concerning a local event known as Community Wide Dialogue. It didn’t fare so well.

If the first three things are something you’re willing to deal with in an open forum, the fourth would be the culmination of it. However, in looking back at why the group I was a part of failed, I realized that even though it was deeply honest, in essence it looked like it was just a “blame white people” thing. It ended up being a one way conversation; when people are put into a position of having to defend themselves every step of the way, they get resentful.

If it had only been one day of that and then moved on things might have worked out better; but it wasn’t. So, my fifth recommendation would be to start off with this, get it out of the way on day one, wait a few days and then get back together and start offering solutions to problems that can be addressed. That sounds scarier than it is, and every community will be different.

Even in its differences, there are many similarities in communities that have diversity issues. A big one is income disparity. A second is education. If it were me, I’d try to set up some kind of education-related seminar or event where I could bring together very young kids from different backgrounds, put small groups of them in each room, and let them learn something together. It would be beneficial for the kids, who might not yet be tainted, but for adults whose kids are participating. There’s something about kids that brings people together.

It’s at least a start. The rest of the work would be up to those in the group. They group can be as large or small as it needs to be but it’ll take some kind of action, and probably a sponsorship. I can’t imagine there wouldn’t be some major companies that wouldn’t love the publicity of backing something like this.

Beating racism is going to take communication and action. Small steps could end up producing major successes. Isn’t it worth a try?
 

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