Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Meeting confronts racial, diversity issues

BY Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A diverse group of about 75 people tackled race and diversity issues during a town meeting Monday at Miami University's campus here.

        Participants in “Racial Legacies & Learning III: How to Talk About Race” examined the importance of leaving “comfort zones” and visiting communities different from their own; the need for businesses to invest in communities in which they are located; and the willingness of whites to part with power and share it with people who are powerless.

        “If people are not willing to give up power, there will never be true diversity,” said Victor Davis, executive director of the Booker T. Washington Community Cen ter.

        Nancy Wiley, co-director for community development initiatives at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton, said her experience has been that people do not want to talk about race.

        “I've been made to feel like I made some sort of etiquette mistake when I bring it up in certain situations,” Ms. Wiley said.

        The meeting also included an exercise: participants were divided into small groups, and had to select from people of differing ages, races and backgrounds to determine who should receive a heart transplant or die. Some participants said the exercise helped bring out hidden prejudices about race, professions and backgrounds.

        Gary Hunter, director of affirmative action at Miami University, said the intent was “to show people how they make assumptions based on their cultural programming.”

        Organizers expect to have another town meeting about race in October.


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