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If You Are A Racists Here Is A Chance To Change
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made comments that our country is
“a nation of cowards” when it comes to discussions concerning racism.

Now that I peeked your interest, curiosity or even scorn. This is not a
plea to change anyone’s mind about being a racists or possessing a racist’s
ideology, that is left up to the individual to make a mental and behavioral
change in their interaction and perception about other races and cultures.
This decision either way ultimately impacts an individual’s interaction with
one or more racial or cultural groups that reside here in Jacksonville.

The recent gathering at WJCT Public Broadcasting Studios,
Post-Racial America: Are You Kidding Me? Shows there is a continued
need for dialogue about racism and Whites should not fear or be threatened
by other cultures. Societies have failed or not grown to their potential
because there was the resistance to racial acceptance and multicultural tolerance.
There needs to be a push for equal opportunities in business, politics, education
and economics. In order for Jacksonville, Florida to move into the status of a
diversified and blossoming metropolis there needs to be a change in the silence
to the existence of racism by both Blacks and Whites. Being silent is being a part
of the problem not part of the solution. The presentation by Dr. Andrew Manis,
Associate Professor, Macon State University allowed those in attendance to
cognitively absorb his insights then engage in dialogue that addresses the
challenges racism has created here in Jacksonville, Florida

Prejudices, stereotypes and biases form from parental and friendship
influences and can contribute to a racist mentality. The election of a
Black/African American President does not mean the end of racism,
but for the opportunity of change in everyone. Let it be made perfectly
clear that Blacks/African Americans did not just elect Barack Obama,
Black/African Americans could not do this on their own on such a national
scale, but it was the combination of multiple cultures. There was a economic
need and national desire to change a failed political agenda by Republicans
and conservatives (IMO).

Change does not come easy when people speak of making modifications
to their ingrained or inbreed mentality to other people that are different.
Racism is defined as:
Racism; racialism, racial discrimination
Discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race.
World Reference Dictionary: http://www.wordreference.com/definition/racism

When I taught Diversity in Education at FCCJ now Florida State College,
I had to change the perception of some of the adult students, initially about me
and then themselves. To get them to look past my brown skin, brown eyes and
curly brown hair. I had to also get them to see that they were a combination of
other cultures as well and there is a danger to themselves for stereotypes and biases
because those feelings may be directed back to them as was the case in some examples.

We were not there to engage in heated ideological debates on what Whites owe Blacks
or how Blacks hate Whites. We did not talk about slavery, reparations, institutional
racism or reverse racism. This was not my intention or in my syllabus, my initial
intent was to establish a common connection that we as “people” are connected. This
connection is dismissed many times when our political parties fight over their region,
area, community. We as a people, a whole community make Jacksonville, Florida.

All of us had a connection because we all had some commonality of interest
as teachers and educators. My intent was to show we all had value to each other
despite our obvious color, sexual and religious differences. Not to allow our perceived
differences affect our teaching ability in the classroom. I wanted the students to be
aware of possible prejudices, stereotypical thoughts directed to their students and
guard against teaching students differently because of skin color, hair style or
articulation of words.

The connection to perceptions of other cultures and what we have been taught
from family and friends shapes and molds our individual thoughts and actions.
We become involved in relationships with those that share our actions, words,
values, principalities and priorities. Going outside of this comfort zone is hard
for many people thus resulting in minimum dialogue of a productive and
meaningful discussion between Blacks and Whites here in Jacksonville, Florida.
The resulting condition has created misunderstandings of social values, morals,
and economic and educational disparities that have existed for generations.

I can only speak of the efforts ongoing in Jacksonville, Florida addressing race
and ethnic relations. The Jacksonville Human Rights Commission (JHRC)
has worked to: foster mutual understanding and respect among all residents
of Jacksonville
(http://www.myjaxbudget.com/Departments/RecCommunity/humrtcommdiv.aspx)
Since 1997 implemented Study Circles Initiative that encourages small groups
to engage in open honest and meaningful dialogue about race and ethnic relations.
I have participated in three study circles and have gained a great deal of
knowledge and respect or the diverse cultural groups that are in existence here
in Jacksonville, Florida. Even though I have taught diversity classes and
conducted workshops, presented at symposiums there is still room for
growth in me and in all of us.

It should be recognized that racism is an interlocking institution in our society
not just one problem that cannot be easily fixed. Racism is individual, collective
in families, thus on each layer of a person’s live change will be required to truly
make improvements. This change will not happen in churches where religious
leaders are too frightened to talk about race relations; they are controlled by boards,
shareholders and trustees. Their focus is to address the feelings of the congregation
and interpretation of scripture, not the controversial substances of race relations
or trying to change their congregation’s minds. Many religious leaders in the past
have lost their positions in trying to address change in this area. Many politicians
are fearful to even mention race relations for fear of being to controversial.

The opportunities present for discussion are in Study Circles allow people to engage
in dialogue, to talk openly and honesty. The means to change thinking, relationships
and allow for the expansion of economic and cultural well being on an equal footing.
In order for Jacksonville to be truly looked upon by the world and taken seriously as
a 21st century city there will be a need for individual responsibility for the citizens
of all cultures to effect a moral change in the thinking of those who are seeking to grow.

This is an invitation to attend a Study Circle to see the multicultural faces of the people
in Jacksonville, Florida bold in their thinking and willing to grow into those that accept
others that are unique as themselves. Evolving from a mentality that is divisive and
destructive to all. We as a community must challenge ourselves to move higher in
international markets, to dispel the old way of thinking that cities of the South still
hold onto racism and biases. We should not be comfortable and complacent, if we
do the world will pass us by and we will decline economically, culturally and be
viewed status wise as a third world nation consumed by
old hatreds and prejudices. Change must come from both Blacks and Whites.

Join a Study Circle near you…
http://www.coj.net/Departments/Human+Rights+Commission/Study+Circles/default.htm
Email: studycircles@coj.net

William Jackson
Edited by: Cheryl Williams

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