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Bigotry on Campuses

May 18, 1988

Your article "A New Bigotry Ripples Across U.S. Campuses" (Part I, May 8) reports on a disturbing trend that is being monitored and addressed by human relations organizations in many communities. The Times is to be commended on running such an article. We believe that shedding light on the resurgence of racism is important to finding the means to combat this persistent disease.

But racism does not suddenly appear at the college level. It is still nurtured by parents, school classmates, popular institutions and culture, and even specific socioeconomic conditions. The racial animosities acted out by college students in an environment that courts varieties of expression openly is seeded at a much younger age.

Our community institutions must redouble (or begin!) efforts to address the hostilities elementary school children develop toward those who are different from them. A program of development of the child's own self-esteem and understanding of others must be fostered by schools and parents before resentment against those who are "different" and "threatening" turns to prejudice, discriminatory behavior, and even gang and other antisocial behavior.

Programs must be expanded to work with the kids to enable them to understand and even value differences in others. The National Conference of Christians and Jews' Green Circle is one such program which we sponsor in cooperation with the Los Angeles Unified School District. More is needed and for older students, as well. Our Brotherhood/Sisterhood Camp and other camp programs sensitive to building racial and religious understanding are reaching hundreds of high school students each summer, but are rarely reinforced during the school year. The teens reached during the summer remain only a tiny fraction of the teens that need to be reached--before they take their prejudices to the college campus or the workplace.

We've got to unteach prejudice and teach and facilitate young people's understanding and appreciation of differences and intergroup cooperation in our multi-ethnic community. Prejudice must be fought whenever it shows itself, but we can be much more effective if we allocate community priorities and resources to fighting it at the ages when it is developing. Otherwise we stand to reap once again the whirlwind of resurgent bigotry, discrimination, and even violence.


Associate Executive Director

National Conference of

Christians and Jews

Los Angeles

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