Femme Founders: Maxine Crump, Dialogue on Race Original Series

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Femme Founders is Equality for HER’s latest series featuring femme founders of different organizations, companies, and movements. Femme Founders asks, “Why did you embark on this initiative?” If you would like to nominate someone to be featured please email admin@equalityforher.com with Femme Founder in the subject line.

By Maxine Crump @MaxineCrump

I saw a need to have public education on race that had been left out of the current narrative, and I set out to lead the development of such a process. We call it Dialogue on Race Original Series.

I had been thinking about this since shortly after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Conversations to began echo the reassuring statement, "we have come a long way." It is true that we have, but have we come far enough? The Civil Rights victories including the Voting Rights Act and the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education brought radical changes but did not completely end racism.

Many people failed to see a massive difference between the Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights laws. Breaking Jim Crow laws meant justice was swift and often harsh, as the full weight of the justice system was behind enforcing segregation. However, with the Civil Rights laws, there was no real enforcement.  Instead, the Civil Rights laws meant those who believed they were discriminated against had the right to take legal action. Many Black Americans and other Americans of color could not afford to file a lawsuit each time they encountered racial discrimination.

Civil Rights laws were not given the full weight of the justice system. It was up to the individual to fight racism in court. Institutions that had been empowered to serve white people did not have to legally show that they no longer practiced segregation. In many cases, no one had authority to enforce the new Civil Rights laws.

What is the assurance that at the level of their foundation and structure, their policies, practices and even personnel that they have restructured their operations to insure that there is no longer discrimination on the basis of race?  Where was the indication that those institutions have shown that they offer the same access in their establishment to all Americans?

Since most conversations around race are at best filled with myths and misunderstandings, it was clear that a particular kind of education was necessary. I know from being in enough debates and bull sessions that we needed a more meaningful conversation. I learned a lot about the terms we use around race and the manner in which that determines how we talk about race.

I met with many academics and intellectuals in an attempt to develop a program that would offer a safe space for people to be open and honest about these tough subjects. This conversation needed to be based on factual information, led by a diverse team of trained facilitators, and focused on deconstructing the often flawed perceptions about race. If institutions continue to operate around race without fundamentally changing their approach, we will continue the status quo of a racially divided America.

The powerful tool called Dialogue on Race Original Series is now the core program of a two-year-old nonprofit organization called Dialogue on Race Louisiana. The organization is dedicated to education, action, and transformation.

Since most people believe they are not a part of the problem, it must mean they are in favor of ending racism and are therefore willing to be a part of the solution. It must mean we choose to be a country that lives up to the goal of creating a more perfect union.