|A common theme of
acknowledging the changing diversity of the nation's
population and an ever-increasing need to understand and
accept different ethnic groups and religions arose at a
panel discussion at Black Hills State University this
Seven BHSU professors and staff members took
part in the panel each speaking on his respective area of
interest and then answering questions from the audience.
Throughout the presentations there emerged a common theme
of the importance of recognizing and dealing with
continuing racism, prejudice and stereotypes in society
and especially in our state.
According to Legia Spicer, the global awareness
committee at BHSU decided to host a panel discussion
concerning the changing face of America after reading the
following quote in Time magazine. "...Today,
cities like Los Angeles, New York and Houston are already
"majority minority." But some states, like
South Dakota, are still more than 90 percent white. One
thing bears remembering: every day America's heartland
looks more and more like New York and Los Angeles, not
the other way around."
Dr. Larry Landis presented some facts and statistics
about the changing demographics in the United States and
the world. Landis indicated that the baby boom will cause
some interesting problems as people live longer. He
stressed that several factors, including age, ethnic
group and increased lifespan, are affecting the structure
of the population and predicted that there will be no
majority race in this nation by year 2050.
Dr. Dan Peterson spoke on racism and prejudice in
South Dakota. He discussed a social-distance scale which
measures the degree of intimacy and prejudice in a
society. Peterson said the stability of prejudice
measured on this scale throughout the years cannot be
ignored in the state and the nation. He also indicated
that many more subtle forms of racism are harder to
measure but are prevalent.
Dr. Ahrar Ahmad presented on religious diversity.
According to Ahmad, almost every kind of religion in the
world is found in the U.S., yet we tend to ignore many of
them. He also discussed the "supposed"
separation of church and state and pointed out that the
two are not and have never been separate. Major political
concerns overlap the religious beliefs of the region. He
sees a movement to a more spiritual nature in society and
says we must meet the challenge of the future by mutual
respect and understanding.
|Dr. Nicholas Wallerstein
spoke about Dr. Martin Luther King's non-violent response
to white oppression. Wallerstein said that King was most
interested in defending his method of non-violent protest
and promoting the "weapon" of non-violence.
King advocated a method of non-violent protest because of
the changes it evokes in the oppressor. The first
response is bitterness, the next response is a tension
that causes people to think anew and create a change in
the minds of the oppressors. King used non-violent
methods such as sit-ins and marches to create this
tension in cities that prompted many to re-examine and
ultimately change their own thoughts and beliefs.
Joe Valades pointed out several items currently in the
national news dealing with Latino and Hispanic issues,
from the controversy of whether to return six-year-old
Elian Gonzalez to Cuba, to the increase in Latino music
in the national music scene, to the immersion of Latino
children in local and regional school systems. Valades
said that complexity of immigration issues will challenge
Americans to re-consider their thoughts and laws. The
Latino/Hispanics group is estimated to replace
African-Americans the largest minority group in the
nation in future years. He described the Latino/Hispanic
ethnic group at a crossroad - a place of connection and
interest with the rest of America as evidenced by the
increase of Latino influences.
Dr. John Glover discussed stereotypes in South Dakota.
He stated that the American Indian/Aleut/Eskimo ethnic
group is growing faster than the public as a whole. He
stated that changes need to be made on many levels to
change stereotypes and attitudes and increase acceptance,
beginning with the information taught to our children and
the typical textbook treatment of American Indians.
Jace DeCory used the time to respond to the comments
made by panel members. Speaking from her heart, DeCory
said she believes that things have changed, though at
times it has been slow change, very frightening at times
and very sad at times. She believes more people have
realized that it's okay to be different. She encouraged
everyone to look at one another as human beings rather
than demographics to increase the understanding and
acceptance of one another. DeCory indicated she is
extremely glad her ancestors didn't lose their culture or
language during the times of forced education. She said
her grandmother taught her to be tolerant of others, even
those who are not tolerant themselves.