ERASE Racism

April 2012
In This Issue
**2012 Benefit Honoree Spotlight: Dr. Roscoe Brown
**Donor Spotlight: Wilma Holmes Tootle
**Student Voices
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Annual Benefit
June 12, 2012
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June 27-28
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President's Message

Elaine November

The tragic death of Trayvon Martin has generated a lot of "talk" about race and racism, some of which has done little beyond provoking anger. A conversation about implicit racial bias, however, is worth having.


The April 14, 2012 New York Times op-ed "Young, Black, Male and Stalked by Bias" addressed this point by explaining:

"Very few Americans make a conscious decision to subscribe to racist views. But the toxic connotations that the culture has associated with blackness have been embedded in thought, language and social convention for hundreds of years. This makes it easy for people to see the world through a profoundly bigoted lens without being aware that they are doing so. Over the last three decades, a growing body of research has shown that racial stereotypes play a powerful role in judgments made by ostensibly fair-minded people."


I'm not drawing a conclusion about whether George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon, is fair-minded or not. I am suggesting, however, that racial stereotypes are learned and internalized by every person in this country regardless of their own race or convictions, and we are frequently unaware when our behaviors are being influenced by myths and stereotypes. Therefore, it is irrelevant that Mr. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who shot the unarmed, 15-year-old Trayvon Martin, is identified as a Latino.


In a recent Huffington Post article, I cited seven studies that prove an implicit bias against African Americans. Furthermore, according to 2010 data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, blacks are the target of the highest number of hate crimes in the United States, higher by a wide margin than any other group of Americans by race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability. Blacks make up 12.6% of the country's population; however, blacks were 70 % of the victims of racial hate crimes.


Or course, we could write volumes about the "Stand Your Ground Law" under which the police saw no reason to arrest an individual who shot dead an unarmed teenager until more than 6 weeks after the shooting under mounting criticism from across the country. Given that numerous African American, law-abiding men have been arrested for no reason whatsoever, it is not hard to speculate that if a black man shoots and kills a white man, he would be immediately arrested, even if he claimed self-defense.


Here on Long Island, as in many other parts of the nation, residential segregation contributes to the dangerous acceptance of racial stereotypes and perpetuates racial disparities and discrimination. In other words, living in racially isolated communities contributes to dangerous belief in racial stereotypes that we often unconsciously learn, teach and act upon.


After the recent fatal shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, of five African Americans that left 3 dead and 2 wounded, a brother of one of the victims said of the two white shooters, "We didn't know them. Maybe if they would have known us, it wouldn't have happened."


For 11 years, ERASE Racism has advocated for the creation of integrated communities. These two tragic incidents remind us that real changes towards that goal are more urgent now than ever before.    


Elaine Signature  

V. Elaine Gross


2012 Benefit Honoree: Dr. Roscoe Brown 


"Racism is the Achilles' Heel of American democracy," says Dr. Roscoe Brown, explaining that despite that reality, African Americans throughout history have proven that racial disparities are not tied to aptitude and that given the same opportunities, people of color will succeed. "The successes of the Tuskegee Airmen show that when performance is a criterion for success, racism recedes," says Dr. Brown, reflecting on his experience as a member of the famed group that is often credited with being pioneers of the civil rights movement. The heroism of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II led to the integration of the armed forces and opened many doors to black Americans. Dr. Brown joined the elite African-American pilots, often referred to as the "Red Tail Angels", in 1943 and is one of the airmen whose experiences are featured in the recent movie, "Red Tails".  


ERASE Racism will honor Dr. Brown on June 12th at the 2012 Annual Benefit for his historic role as a Tuskegee Airmen and for his life-time achievements promoting racial justice. He has been an eminent professor of education and academic leader; a widely-respected member of dozens of New York City, state and national boards, including Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the American Council on Education; the author of numerous articles and guides on education and other topics; originator, host and guest on many television programs, among them "African-American Legends" on CUNY-TV; and the recipient of various honors for his significant scholarly and community contributions, including the Congressional Award for Service to the African-American Community, BET Honors and Who's Who in America.


To read Dr. Brown's full bio click here.


Click here for more information about the 2012 Annual Benefit.


Dr. Brown and Elaine Gross
Dr. Brown and Elaine Gross
2012 Donor Spotlight: Wilma Holmes Tootle


Wilma Holmes Tootle, resident of Baldwin, has been a dedicated supporter of dozens of organizations, including ERASE Racism. A retired educator, Ms. Tootle has served many roles as a teacher, principal, dean of women, and director of personnel for the Uniondale School District. As the co-chair of ERASE Racism's Benefit Planning Committee in 2011, Ms. Tootle helped to organize the 10th Anniversary Celebration, which was the organization's most successful fundraiser. She joins ERASE Racism again this year as the co-chair of the 2012 Benefit Planning Committee. In addition to the time and effort she provides to make the benefit a success, Ms. Tootle and her husband Gerald Tootle are generous supporters of ERASE Racism.  


Honored as a "Living Legend" in 2008 by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Ms. Tootle has been a well-known presence in the Long Island community. Besides her forty years of leadership with the sorority, Ms. Tootle has been actively involved in the Nassau County Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Long Island Chapter of the Links, the Long Island Women's Agenda, and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.


When asked about her work with ERASE Racism, she replied, "I became involved with ERASE Racism because I believe in the mission of the organization. This group has made a real difference in addressing critical issues on Long Island with respect to racial discrimination."  


Ms. Tootle's personal motto is "make service your signature".  She is an exemplary activist and ERASE Racism is proud to have her support.


Click here to learn more about the 2012 Benefit and how you can support.

Wilma Holmes Tootle
Wilma and Gerald Tootle at ERASE Racism's 10th Anniversary Benefit Celebration
Student Voices: Matthew Woitovich  

Erase Racism's documentary, A TALE OF TWO SCHOOLS: Race and Education on Long Island, opened my eyes to the disparities that exist in our educational system today. Before the film, I never realized how big the differences between schools are on Long Island. I always thought that every school received a fair amount of funding to provide children with a proper education. Furthermore, it made me realize that we have not strayed too far from our past, still managing to find ways to keep segregation intact. It is unfair that certain schools get enough funding to meet the needs of all of their students, while other schools struggle to provide kids with the education they want and need. Schools are nothing close to equal, not in educational quality and especially not in diversity.


It would be wonderful for schools to be more diverse and provide everyone with a great education. Without education, how can anyone expect our society to thrive? More information should be published to open everyone's eyes to the reality we live in. Living in blissful ignorance is not a smart way to live, especially when it causes inequalities to flourish. With the path we are now following, changes need to be made before matters get any worse.


Click here to view A TALE OF TWO SCHOOLS: Race and Education on Long Island

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