2008-09-01 Holland Sentinel "Holland bettering itself as a community"

LETTER — Holland bettering itself as a community

By M.D. Kistner
Posted Sep 01, 2008 @ 03:30 PM

Holland, MI —

After reading about the great support for the petition against racism, I am extremely proud to call Holland my home. As a relative newcomer to the area due to a job transfer 1 1/2 years ago, I have continually been impressed with Holland’s constant efforts to better itself as a community, and not turn a blind eye to problems.

As a native Houstonian, I grew up with great diversity in my family, friends and neighbors. Through job transfers, our family has lived in two Southeastern states after leaving Houston. No longer in a large, diverse city, I was able to witness first-hand how damaging and poisonous racial division can be in communities.

One particular Southern town in which we lived (similar to the size of Holland) was extremely racially divided. I was often shocked by racist comments casually uttered to me, speakers assuming I would agree because I shared their skin color. We resisted uncomfortably strong societal pressure to send our children to the town’s lackluster, predominantly white priate school and sent them to the excellent laboratory preschool and elementary school at the historically black state university. My oldest was the only white child in the preschool, and in kindergarten was one of only two white children in the whole K-8 lab elementary school.

My children received a fantastic education, fit in exceptionally well, had great friends, and were not at all self concious. Our family became good friends with the families of a number of our children’s classmates, and were warmly welcomed by many in the town’s black community. As with anything, the situation wasn’t perfect, and bridging the gap as an outsider did have its unique stresses and awkward moments, but the great experience our family had was well worth it.

Our children currently attend Holland Public Schools, and we are thrilled with the excellent quality of education they are receiving and diversity of the student body. I applaud Holland’s zero tolerance for racist acts. While it definitely is not easy, racial inclusion and diversity are not things that happen instantly with the “right fix,” but are more of a patient, long term, slow process of adaptation, in which serious infractions are dealt with immediately, not left to fester. It is more like raising your children; success comes from patience, perseverence, and not giving up and letting things slide, even when it would be easier to do so.

M. D. Kistner