Seminar initiates conversation about race PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer   
Monday, 14 October 2013 10:46
Jim Litwin, left, and Jack Taylor. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Jim Litwin and Jack Taylor want to get people talking.
And the subject is race.
The local residents, both of whom have served on Bowling Green's Human Relations Commission, said the need for community conversation was demonstrated again last week by the controversy over a racially-charged tweet directed at the Black Student Union at Bowling Green State University.
The topic is as old as the country, yet much to the chagrin of Taylor it never gets old. Taylor, an African-American, said his reaction to the tweet controversy was: "Do I have to deal with this again?"
He said while some white Americans may be tired of having to talk about race, he said he was tired of the persistence of conditions that make the conversation ever urgent.
To that end, Litwin and Taylor, both former chairmen of the Human Relations Commission, will host a seminar entitled "Conversation on Race in America" Tuesdays from Oct. 22 through Nov. 12, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Wood County Senior Center. The sessions are limited to 15, and there's a $5 fee. The registration deadline is Wednesday. Applications are available at the Wood County Library, the Mayor's office and by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
The seminar was planned well before the most recent incident. What prompted Litwin to renew the conversation was the Trayvon Martin slaying.
For Taylor that incident hit home. "He could have been one of my sons."
Taylor added that many recent public policy debates have a racial component. These include, he said, Stand Your Ground laws, stop and frisk policing policies, three-strikes sentencing laws and strict voter identification measures.
"Voter suppression acts that were passed were aimed at minorities," Litwin said. "It's almost returning to days of literacy tests and poll taxes."
And Taylor said the ongoing sequester of federal funds "has a disproportionate impact on black and Latino people."
The election of Barack Obama has done nothing to assuage the situation, Taylor said. Rather, it has brought forth latent racism revealed by questions about Obama's religion, nationality and the legitimacy of his presidency.
For Taylor, his personal "conversation on race" dates back to his days as a student at California University in Pennsylvania in the days following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. And yet 45 years later racial issues persist, he said.
A study has shown, for example, that a white male with a felony on his record has a better chance of getting called back for a job interview than a black male with a clean record.
That racial misunderstanding persists "because we've never had a genuine, legitimate conversation where people just come together to resolve all these issues," Taylor said.
He and Litwin hope this seminar is a start. "Our foremost goal," Litwin said, "is to develop a coherent philosophy on race."
For Taylor, who describes Bowling Green as "a great place... very welcoming," this is a step toward making the place he's made his home, a more nurturing, inclusive place, "a beloved community."
Last Updated on Monday, 14 October 2013 13:40

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