Aberdeen – Hazlet – Holmdel – Keyport – Matawan - Middletown
September 25, 2008
Vigilance needed to preserve diversity
Guest Column • Earl T. Teasley
I am angry. I am angry that there are increasingly disturbing incidents and events that point to a community that is failing to live up to the level of respect and appreciation for diversity that we should expect to prevail in the 21st century. Far too many have made great sacrifices — for some, enormous amounts of devoted time, for others, their very lives — to ensure justice and equity for all people.
I am angry that we are regressing socially. Recently, I had a dream in which a huge tidal wave covered the building where I was vacationing. I remained safe and dry inside, but it was frighteningly disastrous outside. Just before I had awakened, I started to see leaks coming into the building from small cracks in the foundation, and I then knew that it was only a matter of time before my safety turned to pure peril. The danger in the climate we are in today is that this regression away from respect and appreciation for diversity is slow and subtle, chipping away at the core of a foundation that has taken extraordinary efforts to build.
It is no longer as popular as it has been to fight on the side of equity and justice for all. In fact, we are slowly surrendering the struggles of diversity not to what should be the right rule, but to mob rule. Examples of the subtle and chipping erosion of fundamental respect and appreciation for diversity are ostensible in reports about the attempted dissolution of a local human rights commission (HRC), physical assaults on individuals because of their culture, issues of racial disparity among educators and leaders in our institutions of learning — K-12 and postsecondary — socioeconomic wars with municipalities failing to meet housing obligations mandated by law, veiled housing codes that exclude groups of people based on their ethnicity, refusals of individuals and organizations to consider accessibility for all, casual and too familiar usage of the "N" word, published attacks on segments of people based on their ethnicity, and myriad other instances where people just do not get it!
Despite my anger, I am grateful to be affiliated with the members of the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission. The cross section of members committed to educating violators of basic human rights to the point that they get it is a valuable asset to our community and our humanity. We must persevere through this adverse climate of erosion, taking steps to seal the cracks that threaten the foundation of equity and justice for all.
To this end, I appeal to all human relations commissioners at county and local levels, as well as true advocates and supporters of diversity to be loud and visible — particularly loud and visible at town meetings, at board meetings, in op-ed columns, on blogs, and at ad hoc rallies. We need all hands on deck. We need you now to be active and vigilant to help us heal painful and hurtful wounds!
Earl T. Teasley
Monmouth County Human Relations Commission