2003-01-06 Holland Sentinel Racism conference set for Feb. 11

Racism conference set for Feb. 11
Holland Sentinel

The third Ottawa Area Summit on Racism is set for Feb. 11, with a full day of programs dealing with issue of prejudice in the community. “We’ll also have workshops and strategy teams, a resource fair, book signings and more it should be a great day,” said Gail Harrison, head of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, which sponsors the summit.

The Summit on Racism is the main component of a five-year effort to come together to identify problems and design action steps to dismantle racial barriers and foster racial inclusion. The summit will again be held on the Hope College campus in Holland, where the first summit in 2001 attracted about 650 participants, surprising organizers who had to turn people away.

In 2002 the hosts were prepared for up to 80. The head count didn’t reach that high, but participants numbered about 665. Harrison anticipates the third summit to again bring in more than 600 participants but the group is prepared for up to 800, just in case.

The 2003 summit keynote speaker is John “Jack” Dovidio, a professor of psychology at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., where he is also provost and dean of the faculty. Dovidio’s research interests are in stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination; social power and nonverbal communication; and altruism and helping. He has published more than 100 books, articles, and chapters on those topics, and he’s been awarded for his work on aversive racism and ways to reduce bias, and for team research on reducing spontaneous stereotyping.

Even though many people adamantly deny harboring prejudice, Dovidio has 30 years worth of research that shows otherwise in many instances, according to Harrison. “We hear from people, with all good intentions, who say “I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve just never seen racism-I can’t believe it exists here,” she said.

Speaking of Dovidio, Harrison continued, “This is a white man who’s spent his life studying how people respond to race … how we are influenced by pervasive social norms.” The summit will end with a dramatic presentation from KMR Diversity Theatre, a group of eight actors based in Grand Rapids. “The Usual Things” is a play about a loan officer’s realization of his prejudices and stereotypical thinking by reliving a typical day in his life at the bank through a conversation with a psychiatrist.

The summit is sponsored by LEDA and hosted by Hope College in collaboration with The Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony, Core City, and Latin American United for Progress. For more information about the Summit on Racism or the LEDA, visit the LEDA Web site at www.ethnicdiversity.org .