Saturday, October 31, 2009


From NY Newsday, Sunday November 20, 1994 - City Diary p A85
(And Even More Valid Today Than It Was Then!)

It is one of society's last negative frontiers, says Carol Taylor, but it's being swept under the rug. So she wants to get people talking about what she calls "untreated racism(colorism)."

"The fact that we're not dealing with it in this multiethnic country is causing people to lose their lives," says Taylor, a registered nurse and writer living in East Flatbush. "I witness daily the outrageous slings and arrows of untreated racism(colorism) in this country."

Taylor view racism as "a form of social sickness," and the most effective way to rid society of it, she says, is to acknowledge that it exists.

She has found a way to stimulate the discourse that she believes will help build a healthier society. Ten years ago, Taylor founded the Institute for "Interracial" Harmony, Inc., a nonprofit organization that conducts workshops in Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan at which participants are asked to take a Racism Quotient Test, then join a general discussion of their scores.

Today, Taylor and Mari Saunders, a psychologist who develped the 20 questions in the test based on racist remarks Saunders said she overheard, will administer it and other tests to a group to see if they might have qualified to be jurors for the O.J. Simpson trial.

One of the questions test-takers will be asked to answer: "At a social gathering with about 30 people, you enter a room where you appear to be the only member of your ethnic group. You would be most likely to: (a) leave the room in search of members of your own ethnic group; (b) stand around and hope someone would talk with you: (c) open a conversation with whoever looks interesting: (d) feel bored or uncomfortable, and wish you hadn't come."

The Village Voice ran the test in 1992. One third of the 4000 people who took it "were found to be dysfunctionally racist," Taylor said. She tells people whose scores reveal racist attitudes that it is "merely an indicator that you may have some work to do on yourself."

Taylor got the idea for the Racism Quotient Test while examining an IQ test. She said she thought if people could be tested for their intelligence they could be tested for their racism.

She set up the first workshops believing "One person could make a difference." Her organization wanted to prevent "further corrosion of hueman rights caused by racial disharmony," she said. "We're trying to attack something nobody wants to face."

"The objective is to improve communication between ethnic groups," add Taylor. "It is hoped that this will help bring about, however graduallly, a reprogramming of attitudes and an atmosphere in which...the worth of a hueman bing is not predicated upon the color of one's skin or one's ethnic background. You're allowed to think and feel any way you want about anybody, but not to rob someone else of their hueman rights.

Taylor feels recent events make it "more important than ever to deal with the untreated racism(colorism) in this country."

She cites Gov.-elect George Pataki making the death penalty a priority; passage of Proposition 187, the California measure that would end government services to undocumented immigrants; Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother who killed her children and accursed a Black man, and The Bell Curve, a controversial new book that many believe perpetuates ethnic stereotypes.

These examples, she said, "are illustrative of the deep sickness within the social body of America."

But Taylor believes, "everyone is racist(colorist)," and does not believe people of color are immune to that characterization. To those who say Blacks can't be racist(colorist) because they are not empowered, she responds, "I don't believe it is possible to live in this racist(colorist) society without some of it rubbing off on ourselves. People say Black people can't be racist(colorist) or color-prejudiced but they can be both."

America's first African-American flight attendant - Taylor - who says she has Cherokee, white and Black blood - is a long-time activist. In 1985, after her son was mugged "and the police treated him more like the perpetrator than the victim," she wrote and published The Little Black Book, which advises young Black males how to behave to avoid confrontations when they are stopped by police.

Taylor's organization is reaching out to people all across the country. Saunders said anti-racism(colorism) laws alone aren't the answer.

"Prejudice won't be cured by legislation. It's an individual thing," she said. "Until each of us is willing to take personal responsibility for the way we feel about and treat others based on race, religion, nationality, sexual preference, lifestyle or culture, we are not probing the essence of the problem."

Supporters recognize the value of the workshops as a catalyst for discussion.

People won't talk about racism(colorism)," agreed Jean Dember MHS, founder and president of 'Africans United For Sanity Now,' an organization trying to make racism(colorism) a mental-health issue.

Dember thanked Taylor and Saunders for "venturing into an area where angels fear to tread."

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