Calling All Colors takes aim at stereotypes
BY OLIVA COBISKEY
The Holland Sentinel
Stereotypes ruled the day in television character Archie Bunker's neighborhood.
Students at Tuesday's ninth annual Calling All Colors Conference took a brief trip to a neighborhood patterned after the Archie Bunker character - made famous by the late Carroll O'Connor - from the 1970s sitcom "All in the Family."
The exercise was designed to teach students about racism in America today, said David Douglas, a counselor at West Ottawa's Harbor Lights School.
"I hope they learn to empathize with other groups, particularly minority ethnic groups," he said, "and hope they come to a resolve to treat people equally in their life."
Archie's neighborhood was a classroom at Hope College that had been divided into squares with each square representing a different ethnic group.
Students from local rniddle schools were assigned to an ethnic group and then given the task of building their community.
The competition between ethnic groups was not an even contest.
For example, each ethnic group was given some money at the start of the exercise. The Caucasian group was given $100,000, the Asian-American group was given 975,000, blacks were given $50,000, Hispanics were given $25,000, and Native Americas were given $13,000.
Monetary discrimination was not the students' only challenge.
Students, applying for loans at the community bank faced discrimination.
"No habla Espanol," said Grand Haven High School student Camille Ellis, playing the part of a banker when approached for a loan by a student assigned to the Hispanic community.
Maxine Gray, who works in the office of multicultural life at Hope College, also played the part of a loan officer.
'Are you sure you don't want to open a Chinese restaurant?" she asked a student assigned to the Asian community.
"They make a lot of money."
Ben Klemm.13.a n 8th-grader at Bunker Middle School in Muskegon, said the exercise helped him understand how other people were treated.
As a designated Native American, he was given the least amount of money. His community was charged more for building permits than the white community and finally he had to take a loan at 50 percent interest to build a hospital.
"I learned how while people are treated differently from other ethnic groups," said Arneesta Blackshire, 13, an eighth-grader at Orchard View Middle School in Muskegon.
During the exercise, the white community was given 75 percent more land than any other group and better buildings materials. The minority groups all complained about their tape or pens not working as they were trying to build their hospitals, schools and apartment buildings.
The community even had law enforcement. Ivan Denson, 13, an eighth-grader from Macatawa Bay School was the sheriff.
Denson said he enjoyed the power that came with the office. He spent the exercise making sure the minority communities were segregated and even jailing one girl for talking back to the loan officers.
McKenzie Boersema, 13, an 8th-grader from White Pines, said the experience reinforced what she already knew, but gave her more strength to confront racism.