1999-06-07 Grand Haven Tribune Director stresses need for racial tolerance

Director stresses need for racial tolerance
Grand Haven Tribune

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The challenge for local residents is to, "foster an environment of equal oportunity," exclaims Gail Harrison.

She speaks as the director of North Ottawa Ethnic Diversity Alliance.

Gail stresses, "this is not a moral issue but one of economics."

Her organization, started three years ago, is working within the school system. Student forums are being set up and area-wide conferences for junior and senior high students.

"It is great to see kids interacting with a moral issues to treat all fairly," said Gail who stated the Alliance in 1996. "Statisticians expect the whites will not longer be the majority in American society by 2050. Knowing this, there is a challenge for everyone to create a comfortable community for all our residents. We must invite others to join in the process. There is a real need to invite white leaders in north Ottawa County into partnership for ethnic and racial tolerance activities and understanding." Director Harrison emphasizes.

Her questions are: "Do we understand cultural differences, are there environmental barriers here?" A third conference of the Alliance already has been held with the theme, "Why do we need this?"

Another question is, "Do we provide minority people training to help them. The Institutes for Racial Training was well attended," she pointed out.

On the positive side, she called attention tohte policy of D&W Food Centers. It directs that all employees hired must go through diversity training.

Muskegon has held a fourth session of "Citizens United for Peace" and Holland has a new gorup working to achieve racial tolerance, said Harrison.

"Be visible if you support diversity," she urged. "There is strong sentiment here that we are a racist community with a six percent increase in minority residents in recent years," Gail added, "and this included three percent Hispanic people.

While it is reported the Coast Guard here knows no ethnic challenged, there have been community reports of housing complaints over color of persons seeking to rent or buy.

Harrison urgers organizing an African American Support Group in North Ottawa.

"I went to the churches for support for ethnic diversity and received little help," she concluded.