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Week 9 Race and My Community

In: Social Issues

Submitted By larrywynn1982
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Race and My Community

Larry Wynn

Axia College UOPX

April 1, 2012

Race and My Community

Even though community leaders, educators, and various groups in my community have fought and continue to fight for equal rights and treatment for all races, discrimination still plagues my community. Diversity in my community is limited, the lack of diversity causes many of the citizens of my community to be unfamiliar with other races and cultures which leads to ignorance, which leads to discrimination.

I have lived in Galion, OH for almost three months. Galion is a small city about one and a half hours from the state capital of Columbus. The racial differences that are so different in this amount of a distance are profound. On numerous occasions I have encountered racism, bigotry, and intolerance directed toward various minority groups.

The vast majority of people in my community are very similar to me in appearance. The population is primarily made up of Non-Hispanic Whites. The people of my town are not exposed to many races or ethnic groups, there is very little diversity; in contrast, Columbus has a much greater minority population, which I believe is the reason for the noticeable differences discrimination and bigotry. See Figure 1 below.

[pic]

As Figure 1 shows my community is basically 100% white. As of the year 2011, Non-Hispanic Whites totaled 96.1% of the population, the largest minority, two or more races, only totaled 2.5%; compared to Columbus, as of the year 2011, Non-Hispanic Whites totaled 62.1% of the population, while the largest minority group is Blacks which account for 25.7% of the total population of the city (City-Data.com, 2011). While both cities show very low diversity, Galion has virtually no minorities living in the city.

This lack of diversity is not a recent phenomenon and from what I have seen it has not changed much since 2011. It is not uncommon for people in my community to use racial slurs in the course of every day conversation. Some people I even consider friends and I must admit even some of my family members will frequently use racial epithets. I believe that the lack of diversity in my community has led to the assumption by many that it is all right to use this type of language. Most of the people who use discriminatory phrases do so almost on an unconscious level; their parents did it, they heard it growing up and they have never been in a situation where they were faced with diversity.

The local government of Galion is composed of a City Council and a Mayor, the city government has little power to influence the way minorities are treated within the city. I recently spoke with the mayor about the issues facing those few minorities that do live in our city. Mayor Deborah K. Dobson said that she felt there truly was not issue. She stated that state anti-discriminatory laws protected the minority citizens of this city, and she believed that the Galion City Council should focus its efforts on managing the city and focusing on what they can do to benefit everyone in the city, such as job creation, municipal services, etc. I asked Mayor Dobson if she has ever used or overhead the use of derogatory language, she indicated that she had both, but did not see the harm in it since it was not directed toward any one particular person or group (personal communication, March 24, 2012).

It was astounding to me that the two term mayor of this city does not see the need for any protections on the city level for our minority citizens; however, the most unbelievable aspect of the interview was the fact that she freely admits to using and/or tolerating the use of racially discriminatory language. I believe that again this is a result of the sheer lack of diversity in our community, the mindset that it is all right to use racially charged language if it is not directed at a specific person, or if a person from that minority group is not in earshot.

The blatant statement basically in support of discrimination and ignorance, made by an elected official should not be tolerated. The leadership in my community seems to believe that it acceptable to continue the legacy of ignorance and bigotry that has plagued this small town for decades, I do not. I feel that even though only about four percent of the population is minorities, they deserve to be treated with the same respect and dignity of any other citizen. They deserve the same protections; the fact that the city leader can make such a statement indicates that much, change is needed.

On the state level the Ohio Department of Education passed legislative rules that prohibit discrimination based on race, sexuality, religious, and ethnicity. In 1984 the Ohio Department of Education amended law 4112.01 which states;

“Ohio, the 17th state to join the Union in 1803, a century and half later became the 16th State to enact Fair Employment Practices Legislation to prohibit unlawful racial discrimination. The law, Section 4112.01 of the Ohio Revised Code, was enacted by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Michael V. DiSalle, on July 29, 1959. It created a Fair Employment Practices Commission for Ohio. In 1961 the Legislature changed the agency’s name to The Ohio Civil Rights Commission. While primarily concerned with discrimination in employment, the Legislature directed the Commission to carry out a number of other important duties, and in addition granted discretionary authority to study, advise and issue statements regarding all civil rights matters.”

The purpose of these regulations is to prevent racial, sexual or religious-slash-ethnic harassment or violence, toward students and staff, to protect the academic environment, and to ensure that our educational institutions respond to harassment and/or violence incidents when they occur in a manner that effectively deters future incidents and affirms respect for individuals. These regulations require county boards to design and implement prevention and response programs, to outline investigatory and reporting procedures and to delineate penalties for violations of this policy. To the extent possible, county boards will collaborate with other state and local agencies in carrying out the purpose of this rule. It is the intent of the State Board to ensure that the learning and working environments are free from any type of harassment or violence. (Ohio Department of Education, 1984).

This policy, enacted over three decade ago, proves that at least on the state level, community leaders are aware of the damaging effects of discrimination and intolerance. This is just one example of how leaders from the state, county, and even some from the larger cities have identified the need for protection from discrimination and harassment. It also proves that some of my community leaders are aware of the problem; unfortunately the Mayor of my town is not among them.

The local media outlets are based in Columbus; newspapers, television, radio stations, etc. are all produced, distributed and broadcast from Columbus, which is much more diverse and tolerant than the small town of Galion, in which I live. For the most part the four local television stations are unbiased in their reporting, they frequently report on any type of hate crimes, racial injustice, etc. Of course, the majority of the information covered in all the various types of media is representative of the Non-Hispanic White community, which I suppose is to be expected considering the basically nonexistent diverse community I live in.

I am currently in the workforce, I have been lucky enough to have a job, as I devote my time to continuing my education. In my previous jobs I have been fortunate to have worked with many people, from different races, religions, ethnic groups, etc. I have found that working for large corporations much more attention is given to diversity in the workplace. At my current position diversity is celebrated as a way of furthering the goals of the company. We all participated in diversity training, it was enlightening and exciting. I was fortunate to have been exposed to such a diverse workplace in such a non-diverse community.

If I could resolve any of the inequities within my community I would begin by educating my fellow citizens. I believe that one of the main reasons that stereotypes and discrimination exists is because we have failed to educate our citizens. We should teach our children at a very early age that intolerance, discrimination, and bigotry are bad things that do nothing but cause harm, hurt, and show the ignorance of the person who is discriminating against a member of a subordinate group. Not only would I begin diversity education with our children but also for adults as well need to know that the unacceptable behavior of discrimination and bigotry cannot continue if we as a society want to thrive.

As immigration increases over the next several years and decades we will surely see an increase in the number of subordinate groups in our towns and communities. We must learn to accept other cultures. I believe if immigration trends hold true we will see a shift from the norm today. Immigrants will begin to leave the large metropolitan cities and settle in smaller towns and cities.

While attending this course and completing this research paper I was surprised to discover how much discrimination still exists today. Subordinate groups continue to be held back by the dominate class in our society. It is not enough for me to be accepting and knowledgeable about other races and cultures; I believe that I must also educate others. Although I belong to the majority, and dominate class in this country, I realize that may not always be the case; one day I may find myself in the minority or even in a subordinate class. If I were put in that situation, what would I expect from others? How would I expect to be treated? Those are the questions that I ask myself each time I am confronted with an issue that involves another culture or group. The golden rule is something that I will never forget. Living by this standard of treating other as I would want to be treated is fundamental to our survival as a society.

References

City-Data.com. (2011). Columbus, Ohio. Retrieved March 25, 2012, from http://www.city-data.com/city/Columbus-Ohio.html

City-Data.com. (2011). Galion, Ohio. Retrieved March 27, 2012, from http://www.city-data.com/city/Galion-Ohio.html

Ohio Department of Education. (1984). Racial, Sexual, Religious/Ethnic Harassment and Violence Policy (4112.01). Retrieved March 30, 2011, from http://crc.ohio.gov/history.htm

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