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It takes work to defuse racism

Why is it so hard to talk about race issues?

And when we do talk about them, most dialogues come with so much emotional heat that rational minds seem to lose their way. Why?

We have devised a series of clever metaphors that disguise our feelings behind a wall of carefully padded Ñ and politically correct Ñ answers to racial questions.

Even worse, black leaders have continued to offer up a rehash of old and acrimonious diatribes that allow whites a quick and quiet exit from these debates. It's unfortunate that some of these so-called leaders have made careers from an issue that has divided us for so long.

As I have said before, resolving racial discord will not come through the efforts of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or anyone locally who is still talking about the whites' hatred for blacks.

Leaders in the black community have long clamored for diversity programs to teach whites a lesson or two about cultural differences. And what has come of it? Most of these diversity training programs have become forums for demagogues, profiteers and sycophants. Yet city and county governments continue to pour taxpayers' money into these failed programs. And no one dares offer a bleat of objection.

I object to diversity goals or any other race-coded programs that do nothing but cloud failed efforts to provide an environment for fair competition and equal opportunity.

The miracle of racial harmony will not be won through legal actions Ñ no matter how brilliant Ñ or through the words of pundits. If it is to be obtained, it will be thanks to conscientious whites who have a core belief in the value of all humans and mount consistent attacks on systemic racial altitudes.

Recently, the Understanding Racism Foundation, a mostly white group formed in response to issues identified by the Oregon Supreme Court Task Force on Racial/Ethnic Issues in the Judicial System, has taken significant-yet-unrecognized strides in this area.

'We believe that the root cause of racial discrimination in our society is the conduct of white people,' says Chris Lundberg, the foundation's incoming president and a real estate attorney in Portland. 'In large part, the discriminatory conduct is unintentional, not overt Ñ subconscious, not conscious.'

Unlike the superficial, feel-good speeches you might hear in your company's annual diversity training seminar, the foundation offers a 90-minute course once a week for six weeks in creating a racially nonthreatening environment. It demands that participants indulge in critical self-examination designed to address biases in a confidential atmosphere. White participants who completed the course spoke of discovering unconscious racial beliefs and obtaining a better understanding of racism.

Programs such as this one could be a building block for real progress, particularly because it's proving increasingly difficult to convince both whites and blacks that working to change racial attitudes is a moral necessity.

Contact Promise King at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .