PULLMAN, Wash. — Author, scholar and human rights activist Dr. Manning Marable spoke on social transformation through fairness, respect, justice and inclusion at the Washington State University Racial Justice Conference today (Jan. 26) in WSU’s Compton Union Building.
Marable writes “Along the Color Line,” a syndicated political affairs series that appears in more than 300 publications and is the author of numerous other books and anthologies. He serves as professor of history and political science at Columbia University and is the founder and director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies.
Opening the program WSU President V. Lane Rawlins told those attending to go from the conference and magnify what they learn. “Unless it touches more, we will not be successful.”
Marable said the great political challenge of the 21st century is the construction of a culture of human rights in our country, a civil society that preserves individual rights, but still protects those who are the most vulnerable: children, seniors, the poor and the unemployed. It, too, should be a humane society that defends those principles of freedom and equality, a just society that sees the realization of human fairness and the dismantling of social institutions and policies that perpetuate discrimination whether based on race, gender, sexual orientation, physical disability or immigrant status.
“We can help facilitate that urgent national conversation that will move us toward a culture of human rights,” he said. “But only if we have the courage of our convictions; only if we are unafraid to speak truth to power,” Marable said.
The expert on history and politics of race in the United States said many Americans now argue that diversity can only be achieved at a certain socio or economic price: by sacrificing merit or giving up on excellence.
“If we provide the key elements for social development for any group: education, health care, shelter, family and community, we will find intelligence, creativity and genius in that group,” Marable said.
“We must talk about diversity from a difference perspective,” he said. “Not as a liability, not as a social cause, but as an opportunity.”
Intolerance is a social consequence of how society is organized. “We have to seriously examine the social, economic and political environment fostering and perpetuating social unfairness,” he said.
We are all witnesses to each other’s history, Marable reminded the audience.
“We cannot simply in conscience say that historical responsibility ends when each generation disappears from the scene. When evil is generated, it has a life of its own.
It cannot be destroy by forgetting and not learning the lessons of the past,” he said.
Many white Americans say they are not responsible for slavery and segregation and ask why they should lose any privileges simple to advance others. “But I tell them there is a difference between guilt and responsibility. We are not guilty of enslaving anybody…We are all responsible for addressing the legacy of the past,” Marable said.
Recommendations gathered last fall during YWCA of WSU Diversity Dialogues with WSU students, faculty and staff members and community residents were presented during the conference’s small group discussions.
The conference was sponsored by the YWCA and the WSU Women’s Resource Center, with support from the WSU President’s Office.