Kellogg Foundation conference promotes racial healing

Apr 16, 2013

The United States may be heading toward a "post-racial" future. But organizers of a national conference later this month say race-based discrimination and inequality are still all too real. The third annual "America Healing" conference is sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek. It will be held April 22-25 in Asheville, North Carolina. Last year's session was held in New Orleans. The meetings are an outgrowth of the foundation's America Healing initiative that gives grants to community groups working the issue with a special focus on how racial inequality affects children.

Gail Christopher
Credit W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Kellogg Foundation Vice-President for Program Strategy Gail Christopher says it is far too early to declare victory in the fight against a problem that has existed in the nation for at least 300 years. She says the conference allows members of community-based organizations to share ideas and tools, and how to do their work more effectively.

Michigan projects funded by the Kellogg Foundation include the Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion based in Detroit. Another is a project at Western Michigan University modeled on the Winter Institute at the University of Mississippi. Christopher says it will help college graduates in Michigan become better at their chosen professions by showing them how racism and inequality have affected their fields. For example, she says a medical student may not realize they have unconscious stereotypes that affect how they will treat patients without knowing about the history race in the U.S.

"Most of the children being born in America today are children of  color. And most of those children are growing up in low-income communities and families, and that reality is not acceptable for a vital and vibrant country as we go forward."

A report released by the Kellogg Foundation in 2011 asked the question "Do Americans see race too much, or not enough?" Christopher says the discussion must move beyond race to address racism. Most scientists say the concept of separate "races" is meaningless from the biological point of view. But Christopher says many people still act as if it does. Trying to be "race neutral" or "color blind" ducks the issue, in Christopher's view. She says doing so means refusing to acknowledge the "racialized structures" woven into the nation's past and present. She says Americans can't move past that history until the "own and acknowledge it".