Saturday, June 7, 2008

A change of heart

When the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, I had just graduated from high school. In the years leading to this landmark legislation, I remember an argument by those opposed to it – “you cannot legislate morality!”

It’s a curious argument. On one hand, it acknowledges that racial discrimination is a moral issue. On the other, the argument asserts that governmental action is impossible, apparently because no law can change what lies in a person’s mind or heart.

Well, the law did pass, and it outlawed segregation and discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, and it helped assure voters’ rights. In a previous posting, I talked about the Jim Crow laws that were enforced in some states as late as 1965.

The law also changed America’s heart.

Many of us see this change within our own families. Racial language and ethnic stereotyping that may have been tolerated at one time, at least within family circles, is no longer acceptable. Even the look of families is different – more families have welcomed spouses and partners and children from different races.

But we all know that prejudice has not gone away, and thankfully there are people who continue to work on the “mind and heart” problem.

Here in Syracuse is the longest-running program in America that focuses on dialogue to help end racism. It’s called the Community Wide Dialogue to End Racism (CWD) , and for several decades it has been bringing together people who might not otherwise meet so they can build understanding, tolerance, acceptance, and friendship.

Today there’s a fund raiser for CWD at Syracuse’s Inner Harbor, and people from Community General have been great in helping to support this whimsical event, called The Duck Race. I am not entirely certain of this, but I think the duck theme comes from the old saw, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck.”

The Duck Race has a festive and multi-ethnic atmosphere with music and dancing and food – but the main event is the “race.” Model and toy ducks, sponsored by local companies and school children, waddle or float or paddle from Onondaga Creek into the Inner Harbor. There are a number of prizes for the sponsor of the winning ducks.

It is a light-hearted approach to a serious subject. And it’s good for our community.

1 comment:

Tom Quinn said...

Pam Johnson, Community's CFO, sent me this e-mail about yesterday's Duck Race:

"Duck Race was again a nice event.
For the 2nd time in its 6-year history, CGH was honored by selling the most ducks!

"We got to go on stage and pick the name of one of the not-for-profit partners to get $250, and we picked Peace Action of CNY.

"Winner of the $1,000 shopping spree at Carousel was our Carolyn Finch!

"Bloody hot!"

That last comment referred to the sweltering 90-degree-plus weather.

Thanks, Pam, and all the Community volunteers who sold ducks and who participated in the event!

-Tom Quinn