Bob Malkas, former Manager of the Lansing Municipal Airport
I wanted to record my thoughts on the content of the first meeting of the Lansing Human Relations Commission [in December of 2018]. I will do this with a stream of consciousness approach, instead of a more coherent report because I want to keep a running account of my responses to how this issue develops.
The Commission was searching for a starting point. It would seem that to fulfill its mission it would first be necessary to establish current realities in the village. Should the residents of today consider themselves Black Lansingites, White Lansingites, Latin-American Lansingites, or should they consider themselves all Lansingites who happen to be Black, White, Latin-American, or whatever other subculture now existis in the village. Understanding this consideration would make a difference. Should we work to assimilate all groups into a united village, or is it a higher priority to promote diversity?
Can a racial offense claim be valid if the perpetrator of the event had no intention of causing harm? An incident could be based on a misunderstanding or overreaction.
I would like to ask a question of the Commissioners that I would not expect them to answer. What percentage of the residents of Lansing do they believe are rank-and-file racists? After 45 years of living in the village I would grade this number at less than 5%.
An MLK birthday commemoration event was discussed. Can any homage to MLK be effective today if his contribution to US History is not understood? I will be spending some time rereading his speeches. For this MLK planned event to be meaningful it should be more than a display that will be seen by few.
Getting the high schools involved in the Commission’s process and progress is essential, if not required.
Repeating mistakes of the past is not productive. We should learn from history, but be ready to turn the page and move on.
If residents want to effectuate a concept of inclusion into the Village they should know that everyone has the opportunity to run for governmental office. There is a local election every two years.
Could the Commission create a subcommittee to guide prospective new candidates on the correct process to follow to get on the ballot? The Commission could also support a get-out-to-vote campaign before the next election to further promote inclusion. You would be surprised to learn how few registered voters actually vote in local elections.
If there are non-English speaking residents in the community, the Commission could arrange for these citizens to be provided with the tools needed to have their vote count.
The best case study of a minority achieving success in today’s society is recorded in Ben Carson’s book, America the Beautiful. He speaks of what he achieved in his career and how he became successful. If it worked for him, it could work for others.
The Diversity Delusion by Heather Mac Donald discusses race and gender issues at universities, but her thoughts can easily apply to occurrence in geographic communities. She does explain what she describes as a metastasizing of the diversity bureaucracy: “Diversity in the academy purports to be about bridge-building and broadening people’s experiences. It has had the opposite effect: dividing society, reducing learning and creating an oppositional mindset that prevents individuals from seizing the opportunities available to them.”
Is there merit to her argument?
As a compliment to Black History Month the Commission might want to consider publishing a reading list to enhance the study and understanding of the Black experience in America. Along with the books already mentioned, review the following:
If the idea is accepted, I could suggest other writings and explain more closely the books mentioned above.
The Village of Lansing celebrates Cinco de Mayo. It would seem reasonable to ask if the public understands the history behind the celebration. It can be inspiring.
If you are looking for an inspirational hero in today’s society, check out the words of Thomas Sowell. How can we get people to learn about him?
Attendance at Lansing Village Board meetings is small. Residents should be encouraged to attend if they want to make their voices heard.
I am hoping that the HRC will circulate copies of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. We should be reminded of his thoughts because many of them have already come to fruition, and are now accepted by the vast majority of Americans. Just one example: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Can you find someone today with a public platform who would disagree with this “dream”? If you can’t, then you must admit that progress was made.
If we accept the idea that racial tensions exist in our schools today, you might want to assign some responsibility for what made this happen. The Common Core Program was imposed on the State of Illinois and many other states in 2014. Has that initiative been successful?
“One example of a questionable CCSS assignment occurred recently in California. 8th Grade students were asked to write an argumentative essay about the Holocaust and “whether or not you believe this was an actual event in history or merely a political scheme created to promote public emotion and gain wealth.”
I will be trying to update my investigation of this topic in future months.
In August of 2014 I attended a meeting of Lansing Elementary School District #158 to question a mandate put upon them by the Illinois State Board of Education. This would also hold true for changing from the Illinois Learning Standards to the above mentioned Common Core State Standards. I wanted to know how the existing curriculum in the social sciences would be affected by the new approach. After almost five years of history, and if you believe that there are still human relation issues in our school, it would be a good time to review how the Common Core is working.
I could think of more appropriate topics for argumentative essays than challenging The Holocaust. Would it be better to study how MLK impacted human relations in 2018?
Rahm Emanuel during a November 2008 Wall Street Journal Forum said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” There is room for a great deal of debate here.
If I heard correctly the Commission referred to a book called Blind Spot. I believe this could be about the research initiated by Grunwald and Banaji. They explore the concept of “implicit bias,” which purports to answer the question: Why do racial disparities persist today? They created a psychological instrument called the Implicit Association Test (IAT). I will be interested in seeing how the Commission deals with this subject.
G & B hypothesized that there exists unconscious predilections in people to discriminate racially and this is a cause of discriminatory behavior in general. Heather MacDonald addresses this is Chapter 5, “Are We All Unconscious Racists?”
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I applaud Mr. Malkas for his very insightful commentary. He recommends some excellent sources of reading on the subject.
I firmly believe in inclusion. I believe we achieve great things by offering a hand of friendship to all races & uniting to better the community.
What is happening today is there are groups & people in politics who seek to divide us. The chaos in society is greatly influenced by people outside the state or community.
I hope we can return to a more civil country with respect for all & common goals for our children & grandchildren. Well said, Mr. Malkas.
Alot to think of here. You speak of intention regarding racism. And also at the end quote Heather McDonald’s book Chapter 5 ‘Are we all unconscious racists’?
If intention does not matter we may all be in trouble. In the justice system intention does matter. If intention matters, who decides intention?
Its a national and media debate now.
Interesting thoughts here.
Thank you for sharing.
“Are we all unconscious racist?” Great discussion to start Bob. I appreciate your your sincere thoughts concerning the HRC. Hopefully, one year in the near future there will be a Black History celebration in Lansing.
To get a really insightful look at the black experience in America, I would urge that “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisis Coates be added to any suggested list of books on race in the US. Not an off-the-wall screed by an angry man, but a thoughtful book/essay that won the National Book Award.
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