African American Youth Identify Solutions to Community Race Relation Issues

By Eva Barrows

Race relations, how people of different races interact with each other, continues to be a problem affecting our society. School-aged children share that they experience racial divisions within their classrooms and cafeterias on the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center (PCRC), Midpen co-produced show, Community Race Relations Dialogue Series. The first episode brought African American middle school and high school students together to discuss and discover solutions to race relation issues they face.

Show host Thomasina Russaw, Director of Engaging Communities Initiative at PCRC, asked the youth participants to share their thoughts on why it’s important to talk about race relations. Many of the students touch on the idea that people need to feel comfortable around other races and that it’s important to not have boundaries between each other.

The hour-long show combines a viewing of the TEDx presentation given by James White Sr. with a student participant breakout session. During the TEDx talk, Mr. White spoke about experiencing racism when he was denied housing in the midwest 53 years ago. Today, he champions a “collective step forward” when responding to hot-button situations like Ferguson, Missouri. He asks people to “come together to speak out against the insanity that makes it okay to kill unarmed people,” instead of reacting in anger.

During the breakout session with adult facilitators, the youth discuss issues brought up by the TEDx talk. The participants cite stereotypes, assumptions, and miscommunication as some factors that cause race relation problems. Powerful solutions to bringing communities together were identified: creating connections between the community and police through activities like neighborhood picnics, using the same protocol for everyone when pulled over by police to ensure equality, living by the Golden Rule of treating others the way you would want to be treated, and if you are wronged – be a representative for your race by presenting your feelings in a non-confrontational way.

Russaw tasked the participants to put these solutions into practice. The Dialogue Series examines a tough social problem but works to illustrate ways to move forward and bring communities together.

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