1999-01-16 Holland Sentinel "Looking for answers to racism"

Looking for answers to racism
Holland Sentinel

David  Douglas of Holland expected up to 20 to attend a new task force group meeting aimed at ending racism in this community.

He received a pleasant surprise.

A group of 45 representing several ethnic backgrounds attending the group's first meeting Friday in the Otto VanderVelte Community Room at the Ottawa County Red Cross building.

Slightly more than half were white. There were also African Americans, Latin Americans, Native Americans and one Asian American.

"I was blown away. This is a wonderful beginning," Douglas said.

David Douglas and his wife Kim were among about a dozen people who helped organize the group, which doesn't have a name yet.

Those attending gave several suggestions towards solutions to racial healing, such as building relationships; initiating dialogue for change in the workplace, schools and community; raising children to respect other races; getting churches involved; being a mentor to children and participating in projects that work against racial disparity along with several others.

"This area belongs for all of us to live in," said Pam Thomas of Holland.

"If we put God in the picture he will help us," said Pablo Martinez of Holland. "I don't believe human effort without God's help will accomplish anything."

Others suggested doing simple things such as bringing their children to the group's functions so they can learn to make friends with people from other races.

"We have to make a commitment to educate the next generation," said Teresa Lamb of Holland. "We need to make a big effort to get rid of the stereotypes."

Whites aren't the only ones guilty of racism, said Ellwood Knox, Native American.

"There is some on my side as well. I grew up being taught to have a great deal of hate until the military changed me. I had to learn that hate can't be part of my makeup."

Gail Harrison, executive director of the North Ottawa Ethnic Diversity Alliance, said she's excited about the enthusiam she saw.

"It's incredibly exciting to see Holland interested in forming a group to work towards racial healing," Harrison said. "There are a lot of Caucasians who want to see racism healed but don't know what they can do about it."

The group will meet again at 7pm Feb 19 at the Red Cross building, 270 James St, to work on setting goals and coming up with a mission statement.