Improving Race Relations 

A Seminar by Tony Harris

Tony Harris reaching out

Misinformation and isolation: 

America remains a very segregated society; Neither the white nor black student has had much opportunity to learn about one another based on social experience. The little knowledge they possess about the other is usually fraught with cultural bias and parental influence. 

Influence by parents who suffered an even greater isolation from blacks than their children. This isolation makes it impossible for whites to confirm or refute the misinformation they have received about blacks. 

There are two prevalent, yet negative stances white students assume when confronted for the first time with black students on campus, and which has become the major complaint of black students:  The first is fear which is always present in one guise or another. This same fear causes the white student to avoid involvement with black students, and as a result the black student becomes invisible, and in fact ceases to exist.  The second is disrespect which is based on misinformation imposed on them by parents or society-at-large.

Misinformation which says that blacks steal, are lazy and are dumb. Being victimized by isolation and misinformation has caused otherwise good students and good people to act out of behavior patterns that are racist, sexist and generally destructive to other human beings. 

Tony Harris during workshop

What makes this workshop unique?  

Our workshop is one of the very few which addresses the emotional impact racism has on whites. 

Traditional approaches usually focus on the pain racism inflicts on blacks. A problem which is so devastating to blacks is not confined in its negative consequences to that group alone. The psychological, emotional and intellectual health of whites has been, and still is, affected tremendously by racism. 

The workshop is unique because of the emphasis on and analysis of white behavior patterns. White behavior towards blacks is generally dictated by guilt and fear. Guilt and fear is so paralyzing that whites seek to avoid contact with blacks. 

Thus this workshop places due emphasis on the unexamined emotional after-effects of racism on whites, and how these unresolved psychological conflicts impair the intellectual ability of whites in their efforts to understand the problems of racism. 

This workshop is unique in that it strives to reduce guilt and fear in black/white relations. The bottom line is that this workshop teaches whites how not to be afraid of blacks. 

Black and minority students: 

The response to the workshop by minority students is always overwhelming. Students express renewed confidence in their respective schools for bringing the workshop on campus. Minority students feel supported and encouraged renewing their sense of belonging to the campus community. 

The workshop creates bridges that connect students to each other by helping them understand both black and white behavior patterns within the institution. 

Black often express astonishment after having discovered through the workshop the painful emotional impact racism has on fellow white students. The realization that racism is also painful for whites helps black students understand why the problem of race is so difficult for white students to manage. 

Black students are also given the opportunity to come to grips with and understand their own anger/hostility patterns relating to whites. 

Many school administrators prefer not to address the problems of minority students hoping against hope that the need to do so will diminish. This approach has lead to an increase in racial incidents on campus and a falling black enrollment at a time when many schools in America are experiencing their largest freshmen enrollment in years. 

No school administration need say to prospective black students that "there are no racial problems on campus," but unlike many schools your campus is committed to creating an environment that makes studying, learning and socializing possible. 

A commitment by the school to look at the issues facing minority students and the sensitivity that accompanies that commitment is all any black student is hoping for. 

Tony Harris with student

The workshop setting:

The workshop is four hours in length and requires the participation of twenty students on stage. The students on stage serve as a window into the dynamics of racism for the audience. 

The students on stage are selected to reflect white institutions, meaning that the majority of participants will be white males followed by a smaller number of white females, one or two blacks, an Asian, Latino or Native American. 

The primary source of information will be generated through the interaction with the leader and the students up front. However, there are several opportunities for the audience to contribute to the discussion. 

What is to be discovered in a racism workshop?  
By interacting with the leader, white behavior patterns are exposed, analyzed and explained with brilliant clarity. Whites are given the opportunity to view their own behavior patterns and how these patterns are looked upon by blacks. 

In other words whites get to see what blacks see when they look, talk, play, study and work with them. 

Role Reversal and Oppression:  

The workshop exposes the emotional and intellectual effects racism imposes on the white mind. By presenting an intense expression of the minority perspective, defenses, rationalizations and misinformation are exposed for what they are, irrational justifications for a social arrangement that is blatantly discriminatory. 

Without these defenses students experience a role reversal and a sense of oppression which allows them to identify with, and understand the Black experience in America. 

Tony Harris speaking in Oslo, Norway

"Thank you, thank you, our campus will never be the same. For the 450 students who experienced an evening with Tony Harris, their vision had been cleared enough to see, to hear and understand for the first time in their lives the problems of race and their positions within that problem." 
Steve Bader, 
Affirmative Action Officer 
Evergreen State College 

"In all honesty, I will always remember the dates, the place and even the names of the other participants that shared with me this beautiful slice of life." 
Norma Mock 
Assistant to the president 
Morehouse College 

"Mr. Harris brings passion to his work while giving you a feeling that this is his mission. This man brings honesty to his work." 
Dr. Charles King 
Urban Crisis Center 

"At a certain point in the workshop I began to realize what it was all about. I felt a great rush of humanness in the room, which was exactly what I had wanted to feel. These people with whom I was sharing this experience were trying to change the fundamental restrictions which they are eternally burdened with." 
Nancy Ross 
University of California 

Tony Harris 
Vice President 
Foundation for Humanitarian Aid to Africa 

Founder and President of Vantage Point Inc., 
the organization conducts workshops on racism, sexism and anti-semitism 
Consultant, Urban Crisis Center under Dr. Charles King. 

Has lectured in 16 countries on human rights under the sponsorship of the American Pictures Foundation and Amnesty International. 

Co-Founder of Drug Action Council 
adolescent treatment center. 

Tony Harris can be reached on 678-698-6506 or through 404-696-4072

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