Love, unity combat racism, speaker says

Raiza Beltran

Amid soft proclamations of “Amen” and “uh-huh” from the crowd, diversity speaker Victor Lewis declared race as a “pigment of the imagination.”
“Race itself is the single most important impediment,” Lewis said. “If we undo racism, we have to undo race.”
Lewis was the keynote speaker for the weeklong discussion, “Undoing Racism Initiative,” sponsored by the Office of the Associate Vice President for Multicultural and Academic Affairs and the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
One of the five men featured in “The Color of Fear,” a documentary studying race relations in America, Lewis spoke to more than 50 people Monday at Cowles Auditorium in the Humphrey Center.
“We really are a family,” said Lewis, the founder for the California-based Center for Diversity and Leadership. “We’re all in the same boat but may not be in the same deck.”
Reflecting on speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglass, Lewis stressed the importance of the wholeness of the human family as a concept that can unify diverse communities.
“If there’s a hole on the bottom deck, who’s got the problem?” Lewis said.
Lewis, however, did not undermine the consequences of racism, sexism, ableism and other problems that exist in society. Humanity has yet to be “born,” he said.
“That’s where we are, trying to get born … We want to quit even if we’re that close,” said Lewis, adding that the birth of humanity will allow every member to “recognize they are born into the same family.”
Jessica Hughes, associate director of the equal opportunity office at the University, agreed with Lewis.
“Race has very real consequences that we can’t ignore,” Hughes said. “But in trying to address the problems, we can try to reach the place of understanding.”
With the concept of race deeply entrenched in our society, Lewis said, the only way to undo racism is love through service, sacrifice, struggle and solidarity — to “love by conscience.”
“Love is abused and misused to sell products. … Love has everything to do with public life,” said Lewis, who advocated practicing love not only in the home but also in school, work and the marketplace.
“Undoing Racism Initiative” is a continuing program to create “dialogue on race in the University,” Hughes said. When asked if there is still racism on the University campus, Sue Hancock, outreach and University relations director, said, “Absolutely.”

Raiza Beltran covers student life and student government and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3221.