Racism in a Small Community
Week 9, Day 7, Final Paper
Small communities can effectively combat racism by organizing activities to counter the desired results of hate group politics. Boyertown is a small, rural Pennsylvania community in Berks county about 75 miles north of Philadelphia. It is a predominately white community with limited diversity resulting from migrant Hispanic workers harvesting apples in the fall and working the mushroom houses the rest of the year. Due to the small minority population of Boyertown, there were virtually zero cases of racism growing up. This started to change in the eighties as more African Americans started to move to Boyertown mainly because of the small town environment and low taxes. According to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Berks County consistently ranks in the top five counties in the state for the number of bias and tension incidents reported. Organized hate groups active in Berks County in the last two decades include the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, National Socialist Movement, and National Alliance. (Schlegel, Stahl, 2006) In the 1990s, the Boyertown area was hit hard by racism, but the community responded with equal force. After a truckload of white youths and adults harassed an African American high school student, a coalition of concerned citizens was formed that ultimately became the Boyertown Area Unity Coalition (BAUC). Established in 1994, BAUC has been striving to fulfill its mission "to create and nurture a caring community climate in which respect for all people, young and old, is cultivated and bigotry is rejected." (Schlegel, Stahl, 2006) When faced with hooded and robed members of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan passing out hate literature monthly on the main thoroughfare of Boyertown, BAUC implemented Project Lemonade, encouraging supporters to make a pledge to a human rights group for every minute an organized hate group appeared publicly. More than $11,000 has been raised and contributed to groups such as the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and BAUC. Donations to BAUC were then given to the J.K. Boyer Community Library for the purchase of books addressing multiculturalism. (Schlegel, Stahl, 2006) BAUC was instrumental in the co-organization of the first Martin Luther King, Jr., Service with the Boyertown Ministerial Association in 1999, and helped establish a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Read-A-Thon at the J.K. Boyer Community Library, using books recommended by the Coretta Scott King Foundation. (Schlegel, Stahl, 2006) Schlegel described another example of how community activism can help occurred in the fall of 2004. A white male attempted to burn a cross on the lawn of an African American family in the neighboring community of Gilbertsville. Boyertown Area Unity Coalition (BAUC), in coordination with the victims, organized a Unity Walk to show support for the family and to demonstrate community support. (Schlegel, Stahl, 2006) When racial slurs and threats were part of the graffiti found in a boys' bathroom at Boyertown Junior High West in the winter of 2005, the Boyertown Area School District formed a Diversity Steering Committee in order to address the issues of bias and tension in the school district. Several BAUC members serve on the committee. (Schlegel, Stahl, 2006) In the fall of 2005, nearly one thousand people participated in the 2nd Annual Boyertown Area Unity Walk, co-organized by BAUC, the United Way of Boyertown Area, and the Boyertown Area School District. (Schlegel, Stahl, 2006) What is Project Lemonade? Project Lemonade was the brainchild of Bill and Lindy Seltzer, a Jewish couple in Springfield, Ill., who were frustrated that the First Amendment gave neo-Nazis the right to march in public rallies. So they devised a way to turn hate into something positive. Project Lemonade, now used in dozens of communities...
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