December 2, 1997
Jeffrey Kaye of KCET-Los Angeles visits an unusual camp that teaches young people how to fight bigotry.
Should America re-evaluate its civic symbols?
November 25, 1997:
Cornel West and the NewsHour historians discuss the importance of civic symbols.
September 30, 1997:
Presidential race advisers discuss Clinton's One America initiative.
September 25, 1997:
A look back at school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas 40 years ago.
October 10, 1997:
The President's race advisory panel on school desegregation.
July 4, 1997:
The Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook joins Angela Oh respond to your questions on race relations.
May 20, 1997:
Betty Ann Bowser reports on the effects of dropping affirmative action programs in Texas universities.
April 9, 1997:
A federal court in California upholds a state ban on affirmative action programs.
Jan. 15, 1996:
Benjamin DeMott discusses his book The Trouble with Friendship: Why Americans Can't Think Straight about Race.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of Race Relations
JEFFREY KAYE: At the Brotherhood-Sisterhood Camp in Southern California's San Bernardino Mountains the main activity was talking.
MALE: They say that a lot of Latinos, we don't have a voice. Okay. Well, today let's have a voice.
JEFFREY KAYE: In August the voices of a hundred teenagers resonated for seven days. The subject was prejudice. The annual camp has been run for 46 years by the National Conference of Christians & Jews. Racially diverse campers are recruited from Los Angeles area high schools. For one long day the focus was racial discrimination and stereotypes. Campers assigned themselves to one of six racial categories. One group was composed of Southeast Asians and Middle Easterners. The others were whites, African-Americans, American Indians, Latinos, and Asian Pacific Islanders.
HENRY ARONSON, Camp Counselor: I heard threads and themes of us quiet, hard working, strict families. What are some things you think about Asians--whites that are different than us?
JEFFREY KAYE: Each group started by listing stereotypes of themselves and of each other. When Latinos discussed their own self-images, the stereotypes were overwhelmingly negative.
FEMALE: We give up too quick. Quitters.
JEFFREY KAYE: Group members recited a litany of harsh characterizations. Latinos, they said, were lazy, alcoholic, abusive, uneducated, short-tempered, and a burden to society.
FEMALE: On the list, women are easy.
JEFFREY KAYE: For one camp leader the negativity was too familiar. Raquel Soto spoke about a long-ago encounter with a school counselor.
RAQUEL SOTO, Camp Leader (crying): I raised up my hand and I said I wanted to be a doctor. And he laughed at me. And he told me, "Are you crazy?" He's like, first of all, you're a woman; second of all, you're Latino. He's like, you know, good luck. He's like, but if I were, I would be happy if I make it to a nurse. When I got into medical school, you know, I was like really happy. Now, the reason why I do these kinds of things I because, believe me, when I'm done, I'm gonna stay in my community, and I'm gonna be a role model. And I cannot wait for that day when I go to that man and I show him my degree, because then he'll know what I am and what we as Latinos can be.
JEFFREY KAYE: Later, the groups met two at a time to discuss stereotypes of each other.
MALE: This is the list that the Latino--Latino group wrote about the black African-American group. We're dirty, they like listen to rap music, good at sports.
JEFFREY KAYE: The conversation between blacks and Latinos was the most heated. It focused on perceptions about hygiene. A few campers, drawing on personal experiences, labeled others as "dirty" or "smelly."
MALE: I take a shower too every day, every day before I go to sleep. I don't think I smell. I mean, if you want to find out, take a whiff, you know (laughter among group). But, like, you know what, the Mexicans that you're sitting next to, do they smell?
FEMALE: See, I'm not even talking about that. I go to school in Wilmington, and it's a lot of Mexicans there. Now, when it rains and their hair gets wet, it smells like dog, and it stinks. That's what I was talkin' about. I'm not talkin' about you guys don't take no showers or nothing. I'm talking about when it rains. Yes, it smells like dog. It does.
MALE: My hair doesn't smell when it's wet.
FEMALE: Well, from what I smell. Maybe yours doesn't, but I'm talking about like females in general that go to my school.
SECOND FEMALE: Do you think maybe though that it might be hair spray or gel or something like that?
FEMALE: Yes. That's what I said.
SECOND FEMALE: No. Because what you said-- Latinos are smelly. What Tony heard are Latinos are smelly.
MALE: I mean, you're saying that we smell like wet dog is--
FEMALE: It does. That's what your hair smells like.
SECOND FEMALE: We're talking about his reaction to the one that you said. So do you understand that you say that Mexicans are smelly; that hurts him, and he thinks that you think that they stink, whatever? He don't know that you're talkin' about hair spray that gets wet and emits an odor that could happen with anyone, right?
JEFFREY KAYE: As the dialogue continued, voices of conciliation upstaged the animosity.
THIRD FEMALE: (crying) When I was 11, my uncle, who was very close to me, was killed by a black woman. There in the back of my head I always knew that something bad would happen to where I would never ever want to trust anybody that was black. And maybe it's going to happen to me again and maybe one of my other relatives will die because of this hatred that we have towards each other, because we're killing each other. We think of us as an endangered species--both Latinos and blacks--we're sitting here fighting and yelling at each other, and it needs to stop.
JEFFREY KAYE: By the evening the focus had shifted from the personal to the global. The subject was institutional racism. Posters displayed a statistical portrait of different racial groups socially, politically, and economically.
SPOKESMAN: The task is to rate the six racial groups in terms of how much power you fill they have in society. Please rank the racial groups from most powerful to least powerful. You must complete the task in 10 minutes.
FEMALE: Do we want to agree on the least powerful group? Do you think that might be easier first?
ANOTHER FEMALE: American Indian.
MALE: We think that the whites are the most powerful, so I said, who thinks that blacks are the next more powerful after whites?
FEMALE LEADER: You will notice the markings on the floor.
JEFFREY KAYE: Leaders asked the campers to stand in a so-called power grid, using marks on the floor, as well as the stage to represent racial status.
SPOKESPERSON: We will now read the results of your work. The Asian Pacific Islander group feels that the white group has the most power in society. White group, please take the stage.
JEFFREY KAYE: For the next 12 minutes the rankings of each of the six groups were read off. Six times the white campers judged the most powerful by all the groups went to stand on the stage. And six times American Indians, the unanimous choice as the least powerful, went to the back.
SPOKESMAN: The American Indian Group, please move to the last position of power.
JEFFREY KAYE: The other racial groups moved back and forth between the whites and American Indians.
FEMALE: At this time, we would like to ask the white group to leave the room. Please allow the white group to leave the room at this time.
FEMALE: (crying) No matter how hard that I try, that my people try, we would never be able to be on that same pedestal, you know.
MALE: I don't really understand why the white people up there were crying because they know that they are the leaders of the society, and they know--I don't understand why they were crying.
JEFFREY KAYE: The tearful reaction of the white group continued as they met separately.
FEMALE: I see it, but I don't really see it--as putting us up on a stage or on a pedestal, looking down at people that I care about.
ANOTHER FEMALE: I'm ashamed of looking the way I am, and I'm ashamed of being born white and being born into this lap of luxury, which I never ever considered it to be.
JEFFREY KAYE: While whites discussed privilege, the other campers moved from a discussion of victimization to empowerment.
FEMALE: I want to be a brain surgeon, and I have this book, and there's this one lady and she's black and she's a brain surgeon. And she's, like, my role model because you see if she can do it, then so can I. And I'm not gonna let--you know, they may be on the top now, but, you know, everybody has their turn.
JEFFREY KAYE: When the whites rejoined the group, the initial tension dissipated in a search for common ground.
FEMALE: If you see some minorities and you see that we are qualified for a job of an exec., instead of going to another white person, give us a chance. Let us move up to where you are. Let us stay on the stage for a little while.
FEMALE: I'm really never going to be arrogant of my racial status again, and I can give you guys my honest word, you can find me in 50 years and see what I'm doing with that, but I want to make, you know, my effort in the future to do everything I can to assure that.
FEMALE: And if you're in a position of power, I want you to see me as someone who maybe had to work twice as hard to get half as far.
FEMALE: That's just what hurt me is that I don't feel like I have a fair chance, and I know that I deserve a fair chance. I know I deserve to be sitting in that place not because of affirmative action, not because of propositions, and not because somebody feels sorry for me, or sorry for all people that aren't white, but because I worked hard my whole life to deserve that.
JEFFREY KAYE: In this non-traditional camp the day ended in a traditional way with a campfire.
MALE: If you notice this flame, this flame burning before us; that's the thing that's called racism which is surrounding--
MALE: Have it all surrounded.
JEFFREY KAYE: Each year about half the graduates of the Brotherhood-Sisterhood Camp return as leaders. Alumni say the camp provides life-long tools to dispel stereotypes and to communicate across racial lines.