On diversity, do no harm, fight for good

There is no question that racism is alive today in America. Almost any social media platform will reveal hateful speech against Americans for no other reason but the color of their skin.

Thankfully, here in a diversifying Northeast Michigan, overt racism appears rare — though, as News reporters revealed in our four-day series that ended today, it does happen.

The stories told in our series, “The Changing Face of Alpena,” show that, while Northeast Michiganders of color by and large have had positive, welcoming experiences in our region, instances of what racial healing experts call microaggressions are common. Those are the small, often unintentional things people do because of a lack of experience or understanding of people who are different from them: the stares, the insensitive questions or comments, the assumptions.

There are no easy answers when it comes to questions of race, racism, and prejudice. We all are products of our own backgrounds and experiences and can never truly walk a mile in another person’s shoes.

So one of the most important things we can do is try to do no harm. Know what we don’t know and what our potential downfalls are when it comes to race, and do all we can to avoid those pitfalls. Don’t make assumptions or fall victim to stereotypes, and treat everyone as brother and sister.

We also must fight for what’s right. If we hear a racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic comment, we must call it out and let the speaker know there’s no place for that kind of talk in our community.

Finally, we must ensure we use whatever power or privilege we enjoy for good. WBKB and Thunder Bay Theatre show us, for example, that it is possible to recruit a diverse workforce.

The best communities are diverse communities, where many backgrounds and experiences and cultures lead to a variety of ideas and perspectives on how to solve the problems we face and grow the positives we enjoy.

But that only happens when we make sure our community is truly open to those perspectives.



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