Real talk about race

It’s not easy to talk about race in America. Even in this post-Obama election era, or perhaps in reaction to it, candid conversation about racial attitudes can be like dancing across a minefield. Chastity Pratt Dawsey of Bridge Magazine and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative asked Detroit metro-area elected officials and activists to discuss race in their region. Some graciously declined. But others, including activists who deal with race in their work, as well as a mayor who has seen the complexion of his community change, agreed to address racial attitudes, including their own.

Some questions are similar to those posed in a poll ofmetro Detroit residents the DJC is releasing this week and to a Pew national survey on race relations released in June.

Pratt Dawsey interviewed:

Matthew Jaber Stiffler

Stiffler

Matthew Jaber Stiffler, 37, is research and content manager at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. His father is white. His mother was born in America and is of Lebanese descent. Stiffler said he was raised as, and thought of himself as, a white child. Other than noting that he was once followed around a mall for wearing a high school letterman’s jacket that signaled that he lived in a working-class white neighborhood, not a rich one, Stiffler said he has never been the target of discrimination. That is, he said, until he reveals his heritage, where he works, or shows support for Arab causes.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE


Jim Fouts

Fouts

Jim Fouts, 73, who is white, is mayor of Warren, in Macomb County just north of Detroit. In 1967, many residents in Warren feared violent disturbances in Detroit would come to their neighborhoods if African Americans moved there, he said. African-American Detroiters in recent years have moved to Warren by the thousands, but they didn’t bring riots with them. The formerly white city now also is home to at least four mosques, said Fouts, a former high school teacher. He talks about what it was like growing up in Warren in the 1960s, and taking office after controversial Mayor Mark Steenbergh, who was charged in 1996 with racial intimidation and assault for allegedly choking an African-American teen and calling him the N-word. He was later acquitted.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE


Kenneth Reed

Reed

Kenneth Reed, 48, spokesman for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, is African American and a resident of Detroit. This interview took place in the midst of the recent spate of police-involved killings nationwide -- after police killed an African-American man in Baton Rouge and another in Minnesota and after a shooter in Dallas killed five police officers; but before another shooter, in Baton Rouge, killed three police.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE


Adonis Flores

adonis

Adonis Flores, 28, is an immigrants rights organizer with Michigan United and a resident of Detroit. He said generations of his relatives found work in America under the Bracero Program, which allowed Mexican workers to come to America to help alleviate the labor shortage that occurred during World War II. Flores was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and was brought illegally to Detroit when he was nine. He supported the Dream Act, a bill that failed in the Senate in 2010. It would have granted undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children the chance to become citizens if they attended college or joined the military. After the bill failed, President Obama signed an executive order that gave people like Flores a temporary work permit that allows them to remain in the U.S., though a recent Supreme Court stalemate may put that status in question.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE


Monica Lewis-Patrick

Monica Lewis-Patrick, 50, president and CEO of We the People of Detroit, is African American and has lived in Detroit for the past decade. The group advocates for water rights, workers’ rights and housing rights, among other issues, and opposes the state’s controversial emergency manager law. Her family has lived in Detroit since 1952. Her uncle is Willie Horton the famed former Detroit Tigers’ star. We the People was among of 42 researchers and activist groups that collaborated on the upcoming book, “Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African American Communities in Detroit,” which is expected to be released Aug. 14.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE

 

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Comments

Mark
Thu, 07/28/2016 - 7:26am
Race Discussion is a complicated issue because one can attach many variables to the discussion. I personally have never been Race conscious in my daily life's activities. However, we are all attracted to people of same interests. Whether that is a common Religious Denomination, a Neighborhood, office co-workers, a political party preference,or a graduate from the same University cheering on the sports team. One cannot legislate how one feels about one another. In my opinion, many blame Race for lack of success. But, one can argue that Blacks have not taken advantage of educational opportunities. The Black family structure has been decimated for the past fifty years with 3/4 of Black Babies born to single mothers with the vast majority already in poverty. There is a huge difference between poverty and generational poverty. Unfortunately, Blacks are in the midst of increasing generational poverty. Generational poverty turns to comfortable poverty America. There isn't an educational model anywhere in America that can successfully educate a school population that comes from generational poverty. The only way to stem the tide has to come from within. Let's stop blaming others for our lack of successes or lowering the bar.
duane
Fri, 07/29/2016 - 12:10am
Mark, I agree, we gravitate to people with similar interests. There is a caveat, people that haven’t moved from their childhood [thru 18] more than 5 miles and for more than a few years we will tend to use the same thought process they used as a child. When we move our mind accepts that things will be different and that we will have to accommodate [some] change, when we don’t move we don’t accept that things will change and we don’t feel we have to accommodate [even some change]. The issue has been poorly framed. When people talk and say an issue is ‘Race’, in actuality is it is an actions issue, it is a results issue, it is a personal issue. If kids succeed academically, financially, socially the issue wanes. When people say it is a ‘Race’ issue they make the problem about who people are and remove it from what they can do. By making it about who a person is tells everyone that it is something individually they can’t control so they have no responsibility for change, and they put the responsibility on others [the government, the politicians, even those who have done nothing other than being different]. Each of us is what we are, but we each have the capacity to change the results we achieve. When our responsibility for what we achieve is removed, it removes the will to achieve, the satisfaction of achievement, the ability to achieve. Read Thomas Sowell’s ‘Wealth, Poverty, Politics’, or Malcom Gladwell’s books and you will find that ‘Race’ issues has been with us for hundreds of years if not for all of ‘civilized’ history, it has occurred or been an issue within ethnic groups, it has been a tool of those who want to get or retain power, it becomes a culture and to individuals a barrier to learning, to social, to financial success. It is used to discourage individual initiative, individual effort, individual satisfaction, and gives people power to those who claim they will do it all for the ‘victims’. If we want to resolve the perceptions of ‘race’ look to Detroit’s history and see that those [the ‘Hunkies’ and ‘Pollacks’ of Detroit] that were discourage by prejudice because of who they were broke that prejudice by assimilation. Their kids went to school learned and became part of the culture, they took responsibility for their results/successes and disappointments. If we want to break the ‘Race’ issue people need assimilate so they can and do succeed, we need to develop the opportunities they get in environments such as the military and large private companies. People work TOGETHER, rely on each other, have conversations that produce ideas that solve problems, they become partners in success. The choice we have is to help individuals to be their own power to achieve, to make their own success or we can to make people more dependent on the government and turn over the power of achievement and results to politicians [which have failed by making things worse in the last 50 years].
Heidi Ausgood
Sat, 07/30/2016 - 5:05pm
It really unnerves me when I hear other groups speak about the high incidence of illegitimate births in the African Community. Ironically that was not the case prior to integration and affirmative action. The elders were vehemently against these policies we now know that the positions they took were wise especially when you consider the following: “The movement of middle-class black professionals from the inner city, followed in increasing number by working-class blacks, has left behind a much higher concentration of the most disadvantaged segments of the black urban population, the population to which I refer when I speak of the ghetto underclass. “In short, unlike the present period, inner-city communities prior to 1960 exhibited the features of social organization –including a sense of community, positive neighborhood identification, and explicit norms and sanction against aberrant behavior. “ “The movement of middle-class black professionals from the inner city, followed in increasing number by working-class blacks, has left behind a much higher concentration of the most disadvantaged segments of the black urban population, the population to which I refer when I speak of the ghetto underclass. “In short, unlike the present period, inner-city communities prior to 1960 exhibited the features of social organization –including a sense of community, positive neighborhood identification, and explicit norms and sanction against aberrant behavior. “ Black Family Structure Collapsed After Integration From 1890 to 1950, Black women married at higher rates than white women, despite a consistent shortage of Black males due to their higher mortality rate. According to a report released by the Washington D.C.-based think tank Urban Institute, the state of the African-American family is worse today than it was in the 1960s, four years before President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act. In 1965, only 8 percent of childbirths in the Black community occurred out of wedlock. In 2010, that figure was 41 percent; and today, out-of-wedlock childbirths in the Black community is at an astonishing 72 percent. Researchers Heather Ross and Isabel Sawhill argue that marital stability is directly related to the husband’s relative socio-economic standing, and the size of the earnings difference between men and women. Instead of focusing on maintaining Black male employment to allow them to provide for their families, Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act with full affirmative action for women. The act benefited mostly white women and created a welfare system that encouraged removal of the Black male from the home. What African people need to do is have a discussion among themselves and learn to listen to their elders.
Heidi Vanessa A...
Sat, 07/30/2016 - 5:08pm
Black Family Structure Collapsed After Integration From 1890 to 1950, Black women married at higher rates than white women, despite a consistent shortage of Black males due to their higher mortality rate. According to a report released by the Washington D.C.-based think tank Urban Institute, the state of the African-American family is worse today than it was in the 1960s, four years before President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act. In 1965, only 8 percent of childbirths in the Black community occurred out of wedlock. In 2010, that figure was 41 percent; and today, out-of-wedlock childbirths in the Black community is at an astonishing 72 percent. Researchers Heather Ross and Isabel Sawhill argue that marital stability is directly related to the husband’s relative socio-economic standing, and the size of the earnings difference between men and women. Instead of focusing on maintaining Black male employment to allow them to provide for their families, Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act with full affirmative action for women. The act benefited mostly white women and created a welfare system that encouraged removal of the Black male from the home. African people need to have a discussion among themselves and learn to listen to their elders.
duane
Sun, 07/31/2016 - 8:33pm
What is disappointing is so few aren't to talking openly [for many reason] about what the perception and realities are with regard to social and ideological prejudices]. I know the answers won't be found here but hearing the different perspectives might help open some new approaches and engage a few more people, especially in towns other than Detroit or Flint.