2001-03-02 Holland Sentinel Summit's aim - A civilized society

Summit's aim - A civilized society
Holland Sentinel

To the Editor:

It is unfortunate that after Thomas Volkema (Sentinel letters, Monday) bemoans evil being called good, and darkness light, he immediately follows by calling the Summit on Racism nothing more than a “liberal pity party.” It is obvious Mr. Volkema did not attend the summit, for it was not a party and there was no pity. Many, if not most, of the attendees would object to being labeled “liberal.”

The overall purpose of the summit was to develop strategies for overcoming racism in our community. To do this, discussion was limited to issues of race to the exclusion of other social issues. A much more compelling argument could be made that all other issues were excluded rather than to say the summit was not about race.

Actually Mr. Volkema need not have been horrified because the participants at the summit were not there to air racial anecdotes. In fact, for many citizens, his statement that there is little is little racism in Holland appears correct. But to conclude that because Mr. Volkema and others do not experience racism themselves that racism does not exist, is far from the truth.

At a recent Holland Chamber of Commerce breakfast, 200 – mostly white males – were asked to stand if they would not mind being treated as an African-American male. Not one would stand. Perhaps Mr. Volkema would, but the chamber members knew a problem exists.

The good news is we all agree people should be judged on behavior, not race. No one is advocating “uncritical acceptance of behaviors or cultures.” At the summit there was no attempt to justify conduct that does not comport with civilized society. On the contrary, the focus of the summit was on how to achieve a more civilized society. Rather than being asked to accept harmful or ridiculous behavior, we were asked not to ignore such behavior and to stand in opposition to it.

Thomas G. Bos, Park Township