2008-09-08 Holland Sentinel "We can all do our part to fight racism" by Ann Weller

[link to article hosted on the Holland Sentinel's website]

MY TAKE — We can all do our part to fight racism

By Ann Weller
Posted Sep 08, 2008 @ 11:16 PM

Holland, MI —

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?

We could:

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 mono-culture. 


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.