Racism workshop seeks to heal
By Deirdre Shaw
INQUIRER SUBURBAN STAFF
SWARTHMORE -- Charles Barrow, who is black, and Paul Patchel, who is
white, introduced themselves to each other Saturday morning under
buzzing fluorescent lights in a cavernous elementary school gymnasium.
Then they sat down on folding metal chairs to trade stories about run-
ins with racism.
Barrow, who is in his mid-40s, recalled a Friday night about 20
years ago spent at a coffeehouse with colleagues from his college
newspaper. The racially diverse group shared a strong sense of
camaraderie. But that night a white male colleague got drunk and started
spitting out racial epithets.
"This whole thing came out of him . . . and it really surprised me,"
Barrow told Patchel, 48, who appeared to listen intently. "My heart
started beating fast."
The two men were among 50 people who attended an all-day "healing
racism" workshop at the Swarthmore-Rutledge School, sponsored by a group
of area organizations operating under the acronym TRUST. As many other
stories were shared, participants said they felt relieved that racism
was being spoken about so openly.
Several residents and local officials agreed with Michael Motley,
president of the Media branch of the NAACP, who said, "There is a schism
between blacks and whites" in the Wallingford-Swarthmore area, which is
largely white and affluent.
They said there was a tendency for people of the same race to
socialize only with each other and that Saturday's workshop was part of
community efforts to encourage more interaction between people of
TRUST, which stands for Tolerance Respect Understanding Support Team,
already holds monthly discussion sessions about diversity in the area.
The workshop was run by Nathan Rutstein, an author and founder of the
Institute for the Healing of Racism, a nationwide organization that
promotes racial harmony. The group receives some support from the Baha'i
faith, a religion that holds racial unity as one of its central tenets.
Besides sharing stories, participants discussed ways to carry what
they learned from the workshop into their daily lives. One of the best
ways, many agreed, is to listen to others without judging them.
©Copyright 1999, Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.