A group of 16 persons met Wednesday in the Trott Access Center on 11th Street and spoke spiritedly about their experiences with social attitudes that place one group at an advantage over another as part of the first day of a three-day Racial Justice Institute workshop on racism.
The local institute, sponsored by the YWCA of Niagara, Planned Parenthood of Niagara County and a non-profit social service group known as the Dale Association, is the first step in a four-part program to address racism within communities as part of the YMCA's 20-year-old effort to eliminate racism.
During a break, Loretta Taylor, a former educational director for Planned Parenthood of Niagara, said she signed up for the institute because she saw that instead of improving, social conditions appeared to be worsening for her children.
In fact, Mrs. Taylor said she believes she had more opportunity for personal growth while attending an all-black high school in the segregated South, where she was challenged and told that "because you are black, you are going to have to be better than most people" to succeed.
When her children attended school in Youngstown in the late 1980s, "they were the only black kids in that school system," she said. In some schools, she has heard teachers discuss the low expectations they have for black students, she said, and it bothers her.
Group discussions were completely confidential at the institute, which was actually more of a retreat than a workshop.
In addition to personal experiences, the group discussed the historical, social and political contexts of racism and oppression in the United States and the daily impact of racism and other forms of oppression on society.
Another Racial Justice Institute is scheduled to take place in Buffalo in February. The cost is about $250 a person, but local sponsoring organizations offer scholarships for those who cannot afford the entire fee, through the YWCA.