Racism workshop seeks to heal

Racism workshop seeks to heal

By Deirdre Shaw

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 different races.

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.

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