Jan 15, 2007

Diversity Council fights to erase racism in Livingston County


Livingston County has gotten a bad name as a racist community, based on large part because Robert E. Miles, the Grand Dragon of the Michigan Klu Klux Klan, lived in rural Cohoctah Township, just outside of Howell, until his death in 1992.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, it’s worth noting and praising the one group in the county that has battled to change the county’s image with actions since its inception some 18 years ago, The Livingston 2001 Diversity Council. The group was formed in 1988 in response to a cross burning in the yard of a black family in the county, and it was initially called Livingston 2001. It was so named because the children in kindergarten when the ugly incident occurred would be graduating from high school in 2001, and hopefully, entering a world where that kind of hate and prejudice was just an ugly footnote in history,

It’s a grass roots organization made up of business people, private citizens, educators, government officials and clergy who live or work in Livingston County with the mission of making the community ever more welcoming, harmonious and prosperous for people of all races, creeds and backgrounds.

A few years ago it changed its name to reflect its mission after 2001, and jut a few weeks ago it launched a new web site. One way that the group meets its mission is by bringing in diverse groups for entertainment and the exchange of views, sponsoring special events and sponsoring groups like the Diversity Club at Howell High School.

This month the council, along with the Howell High School Diversity Club, is bringing in the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit to perform “Speak for Yourself, a candid play about race and hope at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 in the Howell High School auditorium. Diversity Council and Diversity Club leaders see the 45-minute interactive performance as a way to continue an ongoing community dialogue on diversity. Immediately after the performance, a University of Michigan faculty member will facilitate a discussion.

There are some wonderful people here in Livingston County, and it really is a great place to live. But, unfortunately, there are still some small-minded people here too. Unfortunately, they are also the people currently controlling the Republican Party right now that currently dominates the county, and its’ hard to shake that racist image when we keep having some the incidents we have had. People who do not live here and have never been here automatically think of racism when Livingston County is mentioned.

In the early 1990s Klan members staged a rally on the steps of the historical Livingston County Courthouse in downtown Howell. We had an African-American Michigan State Trooper attacked in a Brighton bar in 2002 because he was apparently dancing with a white woman, in 2005 we drew nationwide attention when a downtown Howell auction house displayed and sold Klan memorabilia in its front window at least twice, we have people trying to ban books, a few years ago when the very Diversity Club that’s sponsoring the Mosaic Youth Theatre displayed a diversity flag a group of small-minded people tried to say it as a gay pride flag, we have people picketing Victoria’s Secret and we have people trying to push Bible study in a public school. The flag controversy spawned an anti-gay hate group calling itself Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE), and it managed to get one of its members elected to the school board last year.

That kind of behavior does not help our image, and we also see apologists for this kind of behavior that does not help us shake that image. For a perfect example of that you can check out Rich Perlberg’s column in the Sunday edition of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. Perlberg, the general manager, justified it all by saying other communities do it too.

There will be a lot to talk about. Livingston County, of course, has this lingering image of racism that is unfair on at least two fronts. First, we get painted with a broad brush largely because one outspoken Ku Klux Klan leader chose to live here. Second, although there is prejudice and near segregation here, we aren't really that much different than just about any other community in the state.
Or have I missed the integration that has sprung up in Midland, Milford, Monroe and Menominee?


Now, I can’t speak for Midland, Milford or Menominee, but I can speak for Monroe where I grew up. It has always been integrated. I went to school with African-American kids from elementary to high school, played on the same sports teams and lived in the same neighborhoods. Monroe has four times the black population than Livingston County does.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

"There are some wonderful people here in Livingston County, and it really is a great place to live. But, unfortunately, there are still some small-minded people here too. Unfortunately, they are also the people currently controlling the Republican Party right now that currently dominates the county, and its’ hard to shake that racist image when we keep having some the incidents we have had."

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Guru, you have sunk to a new low.

You try to link the county's racist image with the current Republican Party leadership in the county, and you make this leap in logic without a single shred of factual information.

Please inform us, O Brilliant One -- what has the current Republican leadership in the county done that can be considered racist in the least?

Honestly, this is a new low. Shame on you, sir.

Anonymous said...

It is common knowledge that LC is a white, christian county. I doubt you will find much in print confirming that ... it is a hush, hush thing that no one has to give a name to ... it just is what it is, intolerant and racist.

white + christian = republican. Period.

Anonymous said...

The current GOP Chairman's wife is part Asian...be careful before you cast stones...

Communications guru said...

This is the same GOP leadership who endorsed members of an anti-gay hate group for the Howell Public Schools Board of Education.

Anonymous said...

The GOP has new leadership...give them a chance...isn't that what "tolerance" is supposed to include.

Communications guru said...

Yea, sure. A lot has changed. The hard right the republican party is very tolerant of different people. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

The hard right isn't in charge. But, I don't need to try and convince someone who isn't tolerant of those with different political views...it's an impossible task. It's only acceptance of diversity if it fits your mold, right? The point of the matter is...you made a general statement about the local GOP being responsible for the racist perception of this county. That's ridiculous and irresponsible. Many of us, who are relatively new to the county, would never even know about the KKK past except people like you continue to bring it up...ENOUGH already. Acceptance and tolerance should apply to everyone...even to those who may be white and Christian or worse...Republican.

Communications guru said...

How do you figure the “hard right isn't in charge?” In case you haven’t noticed, republicans hold the U.S. Congressional seat, the state Senate seat, both House seats, all nine County Commission seats and control all of the township boards in Livingston County, The last time a Democrat was even on the Board of Commissioners was in 1996. They have controlled things here for a long time, maybe forever, including during Robert Miles time. The hard right is in charge, and anyone who does not toe the hard right line, is the least bit moderate and supports bipartisanship is labeled with the disgusting tag- “RINO.” Are you denying that?

I’m not trying to convince hardliners like you. I’m trying to convince the independents, the moderates and the so-called RINOs who have seen the republican party leave them.

I accept all kinds of diversity, and I am tolerant of most views. I draw the line when someone else's views are shoved down my throat and at prejudice and racism. I am intolerant of intolerance.

You are correct. I did make a general statement about the local GOP being responsible for the racist perception of this county. I stand by it.

You may be new to the county; I am too, only since 1991. However, do you really think just because you moved in racism goes away? It’s not me that is bringing up racism, intolerance and the Klan. It’s reinforced everyday when we have Klan auctions just two years ago, book banning and anti-gay hate groups.

Republican Michigander said...

Kevin, you're so full of crap your eyes must be turning brown.

First off, I've seen a lot more racial diversity out here among the GOP than the Democrats (Party of Robert Byrd, Kluckster). Out here in the county, you all ran only white people as long as I can remember. We've had minorities in leadership positions in our party during the time I've been active. That's not to mention our state senator. Race just was never an issue on it either - that's how it should be.

Secondly, while I haven't been to a LOVE meeting, I do know Vicky, Wendy, and John Arthur. They aren't part of any hate group. If they were, they wouldn't be endorsed by the GOP.

The Klan auction became big news because the Argus and Steve Manor made a spectacle out of it - bringing the owner a lot more business than he deserved. If Manor and the Argus wanted that Klan auction to go away, don't make it profitable by publicizing it. Then when it crashes and burns, then hold the press conference saying that this won't be profitable out here. The whole spectacle was a perfect example of guilty white liberals proud of wallowing in the distant past of this county, and giving our county a black eye.

In this county, there have been two high profile racial attacks (neither in Howell) in the last 20 years. That's not good, but it is no different than many other parts of this state, and is much lower than Wayne County, and probably Oakland and Macomb county.

But because of you guilty white leftists and your constant yapping, this county gets stuck with the bad rep. Why don't you guily white liberals do us real people in the county a favor stop bringing up a guy who has been dead for 15 years every time race comes up. He's dead. Get over it.

Communications guru said...

Here we go again, blame the messenger. It has worked so well in the past, so let’s stick with it.

Oh yes, there’s a lot of racial diversity out here. Never mind the U.S. Census bureau that says the black population is less than 1 percent. Kill that messenger too.

I don’t know if we ran “white people” in the county for election as long as you can remember or not, but when you consider the pool we have to choose from is that really surprising?

LOVE is an anti-gay group. Are you denying that? Sorry, it’s a hate group in my mind. In fact, that’s exactly whey why it was endorsed by the gop.

Oh, it’s the newspaper’s fault for reporting on the Klan auction. How dare they report the news. Don’t they know they should only report news that reflects well on the county? Maybe they didn’t get that memo from the gop. Let’s kill that messenger too.

“Guilty white liberals.” What a joke. How dare they want this county to be racially tolerant.

Wow, only two racial attacks in 20 years. I would be willing to bet there are more than that. But when you consider the black population in the county is less than 1 percent, that’s pretty significant number of racial attacks.

I’m not a leftist or guilty of anything. It’s not me that condones racism, tries to ignore it and claims it doesn't exist. It’s you.
Why don’t you prejudice condoning conservatives do us real people in the county a favor and stop reinforcing and verifying that there are still racists in the county.

Anonymous said...

The Republicans have done a good job of keeping Livingston County a haven for those that do not tolerate African-Americans. Actually, I think they fear blacks.

Communications guru said...

I would not go that far, but the republicans have controlled almost every political office in the county for a long time. Doesn’t the leadership bear some responsibility for the state of things? Even if it's just a small amount of responsibility?

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” The silence has been deafening.

Republican Michigander said...

No, I'm not afraid or intolerant of black Americans. I do admit to having a strong bias against leftist whites who wreck a city with their policies of red tape and high taxes (Detroit), move out of the city, and try and same failed measures that wrecked the city in the first place in their new home.

Whites are the problem. Leftist whites.

Communications guru said...

What nationality would they be? I am well aware that you are the problem. I also do not know of any communists in the county.

Anonymous said...

Hey Guru...here's an interesting read for you...

http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=16500

Communications guru said...

What a stretch, even for that rightwing publication. Hey, thanks for the laugh. I really needed it.

Anonymous said...

"You are correct. I did make a general statement about the local GOP being responsible for the racist perception of this county. I stand by it."

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With brilliant, factual statements such as this, the Livingston County Democratic Party has to LOVE the fact that the Guru has become their unofficial spokesman.

Yes, I'm sure they're all thrilled that he's out here representing the local Democrats with statements such as this.

Calling all the local Republican leaders racists. Yep, that's just what the Democrats were hoping for. That's really going to convince the independents in Livingston County that the local Democratic Party is on the ball.

Seriously, don't you think the County Democratic Party would just LOVE to see this headline in the Argus: "HEAD OF COUNTY YOUNG DEMOCRATS SAYS REPUBLICAN LEADERS IN COUNTY ARE ALL RACIST." Yes, they would love to see that headline.

Keep it up, Guru. Please. Keep it up. You're the best friend the local Republican Party has right now.

Communications guru said...

I don’t drink, but thanks for pointing out the typo. However, the point is still valid, and that is that the “Democratic tsunami” you allage would only have occurred in Michigan for a national issue if there were a presidential election, not a mid-term election.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure you don't? Because you posted this exact same response to two different topics...