2002-02-20 Lakeshore Press Ottawa's summit on racism

Ottawa’s summit on racism
Lakeshore Press

Ottawa County business, education, religious and community leaders devoted a day last week to talking seriously about the question of race. Called the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism, the event drew over 500 people and garnered support from a broad range of community leaders. That speaks well of a rapidly growing county’s desire to bridge the color divide.

Though the annual event is important, it is just of the part of a larger five-year effort to confront questions of race. Subgroups of summit participants have been meeting since the first gathering last year to talk about race in various sectors-from the classroom to the boardroom. One group developed ways for businesses to hire, keep and promote people of color. Another tackled the issue of fair housing.

Businesses that have helped fund the summit, as well as the participants form all sectors; deserve credit for devoting time and resources to these issues. The Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, which organized the summit based on a similar event in Grand Rapids, has done the community a valuable service. No five-year effort, however broad and well-intentioned, will address all the tangled questions of race in society. But simply talking about these tough topics-and enlisting community leaders who can make changes in their workplaces, churches and governments-is a move in the right direction, one other communities should emulate.