Americans are living in a Post-Racial Era, according to some, since the election of this country’s first black president, said Dr. Cookie Newsom.
But she disagrees with that theory.
“I hate to tell them that hate groups have doubled in number since his election,” she added. “More and more people are organizing. People find a reason to dislike other people.”
Newsom was the keynote speaker at Saturday’s eighth annual Richmond County Human Relations Council Diversity Banquet, held at Cole Auditorium.
As director of Diversity Education and Assessment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Newsom said she looks forward to the day when her job is no longer necessary. But that day has not come.
Newsom also discussed her personal experiences with racism or lack thereof. Because she is a light-skinned African-American with Native American as a part of her heritage, she didn’t suffer racism as much as her darker-skinned counterparts. “For me, it’s more of an intellectual study than experience.”
What she has noticed over the years, however, is that people are now more competitive among each other. “We’ve changed from collaboration … and communication to competition. We don’t want to help and celebrate other people’s successes. This attitude that ‘I’m not going to help you’ is very damaging.”
Groups like the Human Relations Council are a start in helping to eradicate those thought-processes that divide.
A diverse slate of entertainment provoked the audience to stand in ovation, from Alden Quick’s jazzy “Summertime,” as performed by Miles Davis, to 15-year-old pianist Joshua Chen’s “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven.
Chyna Kitt sang “America the Beautiful; Susanna Franco sang a Christian song entitled, “I Am Real” in both Spanish and English; and the program ended with a young group of steel drummers from the Rockingham Housing Authority’s 21st Century Community Learning Center, under the direction of Lulana Rosani.
Artists Peggy Covington, Lula Smith and LaFayette Gould displayed their varied art pieces in the lobby that ranged from paintings to collages.
Andy Davis, master of ceremonies, led the audience in a moment of silence for Melissa Kester, who died last year of cancer. She was secretary of the Human Relations Council.
“The hope is that we can see and appreciate the differences in each and every one of us,” Davis said. “Let us be more renewed to focus on diversity. The more we discuss it, the more in tune we will be … and not hurt other people.”