Deepening the Stand Against Racism

A- A A+

Deepening the Stand Against Racism

By Kathryn Liss
YWCA Asheville, N.C.

Kathryn Liss

Asheville, N.C. has significant racial disparities. Our population is 17.6 percent African American and about 3.8 percent Latino.  However, our public school system is about 38 percent African American and 5 percent Latino. Walking around in the downtown area or going to restaurants and entertainment venues, one hardly ever sees any people of color. Often newcomers to the area ask “where are all the black people?” People who have lived in other cities are often shocked by the inequality here.

Like many other cities during the 50s and 60s, Asheville experience urban renewal. During this process, historically African American neighborhoods were dismantled, and many blacks were moved into public housing developments, essentially creating ghettos of poverty. This was deeply traumatic to the communities it affected. The process of integrating the schools in the late 60s and early 70s was also traumatic.  Today there is not much of a black middle class – 57 percent of African Americans in our community live in poverty. With this in mind, the programs we have established as part of the Stand Against Racism have focused on making the community more welcoming to people of color, looking at the issues facing the remaining middle class black neighborhoods, and raising awareness about the challenges faced in the educational system.

Asheville has been an active participant in the YWCA’s nationwide Stand Against Racism, having the largest number of participating groups of any community in the U.S. last year.  Each group participated in its own way.  Some businesses put up signs and had staff wear buttons, youth serving organizations involved their young people in activities to raise awareness of racism and non-profits held meetings with staff where they discussed how racism impacts their work. The city of Asheville led a tour of downtown sites of historic importance to people of color. There were public forums, video screenings and tabling from organizations which provide services to address racial disparities.  We had a gathering of people in one of the remaining middle-class, African-American neighborhoods to bring together the new, young white homeowners with the long-term black homeowners.

This year the Asheville YWCA stepped up its efforts. Not only did we make additions to what we were doing for April 27, but we also held events throughout the year to address specific issues. Last October we supported a forum for the candidates for city council to share their perspectives on how issues being faced by the African American community could be better addressed. In February, we supported a panel discussion of race and the church.  And, as part of this year’s events, we are supporting a forum on the challenges facing Latino students in the educational system.

In addition, we added an action component: workshops on how to assess common spaces. This investigation into what makes a space welcoming (or not) brought together people from a wide range of organizations. There will be a survey to determine what changes participants are making in their buildings as a result of the workshop.  We hope to be able to report to the community significant changes in the common spaces in our community.

The Stand Against Racism in Asheville has been able to do all of these things because it is a coalition of groups in the community which address the common issue of racism.  As these groups work together to bring forward the concerns we each have we have been able to coordinate our efforts and combine our resources to involve the most participants possible.  By using various modalities, theater, videos, forums, marches, speak outs, etc. we have been able to provide a multitude of ways that awareness can be raised and changes take place, as well as providing a variety of opportunities for people to continue their involvement throughout the year.

Kathryn Liss is the volunteer coordinator for the YWCA Asheville Stand Against Racism, which includes multiple events from April 24 – May 13.  She is formerly the director of training for The Mediation Center of Asheville and a former board member of Building Bridges of Asheville.

This article was originally published on the YWCA of Asheville blog.

Stand Against Racism logoThis post is part of the YWCA Stand Against Racism blog carnival on issues of race, justice and diversity. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #StandAgainstRacism.

11 responses to “Deepening the Stand Against Racism

  1. Good day! This post could not be written any better!

    Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate!
    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him.

    Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

  2. Hmm it looks like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long)
    so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing.
    Do you have any tips for beginner blog writers?
    I’d really appreciate it.

  3. Hi there, You’ve done a great job. I will definitely digg
    it and personally recommend to my friends. I’m confident they’ll be benefited
    from this website.

  4. Howdy, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot
    of spam remarks? If so how do you protect against it, any plugin or anything you can advise?
    I get so much lately it’s driving me insane so
    any assistance is very much appreciated.

  5. If you would like to grow your know-how just keep visiting this web site and be updated with the latest information posted

  6. Today, I went to the beach front with my kids.

    I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter
    and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She
    put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was
    a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go
    back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I
    had to tell someone!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *