Archive for Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Convocation address challenges races

September 26, 2001

People of all colors still need to work for civil rights.

That was the message Julie A. Robinson made clear at Baker University's fall convocation Friday morning.

"Racism still persists," she said. "Each one of us black, white, brown each one of us as individuals needs to take up the banner for civil rights."

Robinson's address ended a week's worth of activities and speakers centered around the civil rights theme at Baker.

Robinson, who is the first female, and the first black female, to be appointed to the position of United States Bankruptcy Judge for the District of Kansas, offered challenges to both blacks and whites to help work for civil rights.

"To my white-skinned brothers and sisters, the first challenge I ask of you is to embark in a journey to see what black and brown-skinned people experience in this country because of the color of their skin," she said.

White people are born, she said, with a certain set of privileges that black people aren't born with.

"I'm asking you to be very careful not to feel guilt or shame for this," Robinson said. "But I challenge you to discover what you don't already know. It's important to understand other people's history and culture."

She said she also challenged white people to be empathetic.

"Being able to say I'm sorry is a powerful catalyst," she said. "Why should I be sorry for something I'm not responsible for? Being sorry doesn't make you responsible. Instead, it says you feel a sense of sorrow."

Robinson also had a set of challenges for black people as well.

"I challenge you to discover the individual stories of white-skinned people," she said. "Find out what adversities they faced, adversities their families faced, what brings them joy and what causes sorrow and pain.

"You will discover how much we are the same," she said.

She also challenged black people to seek relationship with white people.

"I challenge you to be very intentional about adopting an attitude of acceptance and forgiveness," Robinson said. "If you find somebody that does something offensive, give them a chance. It's a learning process for all of us."

She also encouraged black people to leave the past behind.

"Put down your baggage. Leave your baggage. Walk away from it," she said. "We come from people who don't carry baggage. I tell you to put down that baggage and complete the journey."

Blacks and whites, Robinson said, are really working for the same things in life.

"We are all on a journey toward relationship, harmony and community," she said. "Let us seek a relationship with one another as Jesus told us to do."

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