Race summit offers remedies Organizers will prepare report

December 03, 1990|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,Evening Sun Staff Michael A. Fletcher, Patrick Gilbert, Mark Bomster, Michelle Singletary, Raymond L. Sanchez and Patrick Ercolano contributed to this story.

The organizers of the city's race-relations summit plan to meet this week to prepare a report summarizing the summit's workshops and detailing its various recommendations.

"This summit will be a success only if we go home -- to the communities we live in, the organizations we belong to, the churches and synagogues we go to -- and we begin to implement dialogues in those areas," said George N. Buntin, executive director of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "Then the dialogues will go on and on and on, and the message will go out and out and out."

The message from the summit, which drew more than 2,000 people to the Baltimore Convention Center Friday, was simply: Listen, understand, care.

Specific remedies were offered. In the workshop dealing with relations between Koreans and blacks, for example, participants suggested that blacks try to learn a few expressions in Korean and something about Korean culture, that Korean merchants become active in community groups and hire blacks to work in their stores and that the two groups not only sit down together in forums throughout the city, but also form joint business ventures.

Kenneth J. Strong, chairman of the post-summit committee, said a report will be drafted summarizing the summit's recommendations.

The committee also will promote events and discussions that keep people aware of race relations, he said. It might even sponsor a "unity picnic" at Druid Hill Park where, he said, "a

black family invites a white family or a Korean family to picnic with them in the park. I have this vision of a field filled with blankets and people of cultural diversity."

Organized by the city's Community Relations Commission, the summit was the first citywide meeting on race relations.

It grew out of concern this summer over a racial incident in Highlandtown in which a black man died after white men allegedly chased him into the path of a pickup truck, and another incident in Remington in which a white men allegedly stabbed a black man to death.

Here are highlights from some of the workshops conducted to discuss ways to improve race relations in specific areas:

* Conflict emerged quickly in a group discussion on race relations and government. J. Michael Grant, a data processing manager with the city's Housing Authority wanted to know how racism could be minimized in government promotions.

The issue is important, participants asserted, because the government is the largest employer in Baltimore. They also said the problem is real -- especially when hiring rules are applied inconsistently.

"The question for me is, 'is the process fair?' " said Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers 3rd, D-3rd. "Are the rules being applied fairly in all cases?"

But there is a problem with that, said Carol P. Bruce, a civilian Army employee. "You can't teach a racist to be a non-racist," she said.

Members of the group seemed to agree with that sentiment. They also agreed that the best way to get employers to act fairly is to have a strongly articulated anti-discrimination policy at the top, and enforcement officers in agencies who are viewed as advocates, not management tools.

"Leadership is the key," said council President Mary Pat Clarke. "The boss has to say, 'Do it.' "

* During the workshop on education, many speakers said black children, who make up 80 percent of the city school system, are taught little about their African-American heritage. As a result, the children suffer from low self-esteem and a lack of motivation.

The comments come at a time when the city has altered its curriculum to include a more balanced African-American perspective. "Our children have been miseducated and lied to," said Sissy Bryant, a peace activist.

"Why is it that African-American children go through the process and come out and hate everything about themselves?" she asked.

But others cautioned that students' academic performance should not be lost in the push for a more ethnically-aware curriculum.

"I certainly do want them to compete and take their place in society," Bernellyn Carey, a health department employee and former school teacher. "I want us to look at the math and the English and the science, as well as the history."

* Some participants in the criminal-justice workshop said non-white defendants receive harsher prison sentences than whites and the death penalty is sought more frequently in cases involving minority defendants. They called for fairness in the courts.

They also said members of the community who are not connected to government or the police should be included in the process for reviewing complaints about the police.

Complaints filed against police are reviewed by a the Complaint Evaluation Board made up of representatives of the city solicitor's office, the state's attorney's office, the state Human Relations Commission and the city's Community Relations Commission.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.