Southwest Michigan authors hope new book on race impact relations

NOW: Southwest Michigan authors hope new book on race impact relations

In 1997, Sandy and Larry Feldman moved from Oak Park, Illinois to Lakeside, Michigan. 

Almost immediately, the couple noticed a racial divide in southwest Michigan. 

As a way to bridge the tension, the couple became involved in multiple diversity initiatives like All God’s Children Choir, the Race Relations Council, and Calling All Color. 

While the couple acknowledges race relations in southwest Michigan could be better, they believe the area is less divided than it was more than 20 years of go because of the well-constructed diversity programs. 

The Feldman’s thought other people could benefit from the lessons they’ve learned as a result of the programs, so they decided to write a book. 

“We realized that there were some important lessons we had learned,” said Sandy Feldman. “We thought we really ought to be able to document this so that we can share the lessons that we’ve learned and in other communities people could replicate some of these projects.” 

The authors explain Building Bridges Across the Racial Divide provides a review of theory and research on methods to reduce stereotypes and prejudice and describes ways to lessen the negative impacts of racial segregation by bringing together people from all racial groups to share positive experiences. 

“If we don’t address this and we don’t talk about it, then we can’t find a way to each other,” said Sandy Feldman. “I think that’s very important because we tend to be very phobic about things that are highly charged and we try to lose ourselves in our day-to-day life. Ithink that it’s critical that we address this elephant in the living room because I think especially in recent years, it's something that’s divided us in very destructive ways.” 

The couple hopes the book inspires people to take steps to reduce racial prejudice and segregation. 

“The issue is so critically important,” said Larry Feldman. “We are such a divided country and there’s so much animosity between people from different racial groups. We know how to make that better, so hopefully, people can learn from both the research we reviewed and the examples that we give and come up with their own ideas. We hope that it can stimulate people to think about other ideas that we haven’t thought of and see if we can get back on track when it comes to breaking down stereotypes and prejudice.”

To spark some of those ideas, the Feldman’s will host a series of discussions about the book.

The first is Tuesday, July 23 from 6-7:30 pm at the New Buffalo Township Library. 

There will be additional discussions on Monday, August 19 from 7-8:30 pm at the Phoenix Coffeeshop in Benton Harbor and Tuesday, August 27 from 7-8:30 pm at Forever Books in St. Joseph. 

“If we can think of a constructive action, a way that we might use ourselves to improve the situation that we’re feeling most upset about, it diminishes that sense of powerlessness,” said Sandy Feldman. “We’re hoping that through the book we give people some ideas about ways that they might use whatever their gift is. If they have the gift of dance, start a multiracial dance company. 

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