On Sunday, Sept. 7, The Sentinel printed an advertisement with the
signatures of more than 2,600 people who protested the racial slur
painted on a northside family's driveway, and who committed to be
anti-racist in their personal and community lives. What are some ways
we could do this?
1. Keep our eyes and ears open for instances when prejudice
rears its ugly head around us, and for instances when someone speaks
out against racism. Be the one to stop racist jokes, not the one to
laugh at them, tell them or forward them in e-mail.
2. Listen when people describe an incident of discrimination,
without telling them, "You're too sensitive," or "Just get past it, we
all have problems," or "I'm sure they meant no harm." Until you are the
person who has the experience, you don't know its effect.
3. Learn more about other cultures. Watch a movie, read a book,
go to a locally celebrated event like Tulipanes, Juneteenth, Fiesta, a
Native American pow wow, or Vietnamese or Cambodian New Year, or visit
the Dutch gallery at The Holland Museum; have a meal in an ethnic
restaurant; study another language. The Alliance for Cultural and
Ethnic Harmony meets monthly in Holland to hear speakers from many
backgrounds and to create friendships across cultures. Holland First, a
free program of the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce, looks at our
community and its institutions through the eyes of diversity.
4. Take a look at your child's school curriculum, or the study
plan for Sunday school. Who's pictured in the books and videos, and do
they reflect people of many ethnic backgrounds?
5. Meet someone new to you in your neighborhood or at work.
Invite them for coffee or to a local event. Talk to them about their
life here and what they have experienced.
6. Don't wait for the children. Many times I hear, "We have to
start with the children; they'll do better than we do as adults." But
who parents those children, who teaches them, who are their
grandparents or other role models? We as adults have to educate
ourselves about history and about racism and its effects on people. We
can't expect the kids to somehow do it on their own.
7. Sign up for an Institute for Healing Racism session,
sponsored by the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance and the Holland
Area Chamber of Commerce. Videos, discussions and first-hand stories by
people from different ethnic backgrounds have a powerful impact.
8. Racism is more than just personal. It can infect our institutions
and systems, too. Who's hired, who gets a mortgage, who gets to rent
the apartment, who pays higher interest rates because of their race,
who's stopped by police and why? Ask questions. Do some research.
9. It's great to invite people of different backgrounds to your
church or an event your group sponsors, but take the time to go
somewhere else yourself. Your doors may be open, but try walking out of
them into someone else's world for a change.
10. Celebrate and enjoy our diversity. It creates a far more
interesting and appealing community than one that is completely
The theme of the pledge, referring to the racial slur, was: "Not
here not now, not ever again." We all have to take action to make that
come true. What are your ideas?
— Ann Weller is a resident of Holland and editor for the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony.