At Unitarian Society of Germantown event, local columnist discusses writing about race

The Unitarian Society of Germantown’s Ending Racism Committee hosted Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Annette John-Hall as a guest speaker on Sunday.

John-Hall, who has consistently written about racism and class welfare among other issues since 1995, made note of the negative comments she receives when she does so.

“‘Why do you have to make everything about race? You’re making it worse than what it is,'” John-Hall described as the general tenor of comments received. “I try to point out prejudices, half-truths and downright ignorance. Those types of comments make me believe that people think racism is already pretty bad and maybe if we avoid it, it will go away.”

John-Hall explained that she writes about those topics because she wants people to talk about the real issues involved with racism today.

Other topics

The discussion also veered toward education, parenting, personal responsibility and drug laws, particularly how they impact society along racial lines.

“There are four generations who have received inferior education from the Philadelphia public-school system,” she said. “Parents are trying, but they may not be equipped to handle certain situations regarding their children.”

She maintained that much of the role-model dearth stems from crime, namely those involving drugs.

“Drug laws cause black males to be separate and unequal,” she said. “Someone may get arrested and go to jail for carrying marijuana, but then they can’t get a decent job because of their criminal background. It’s interesting to see money being cut from education but extended in prisons. It’s already expected for our children to fail.”

Several Unitarian Society members agreed with John-Hall’s assertion that the cycle of poverty keeps communities down.

“Some people live in the worst parts of the city without access to quality education, job security and the things that others have that they can’t afford,” said Gail Mershon.

Added Jean Robinson, “When it comes to the issue of education and inclusion, it is mythological to assume that every child that is taught the same will reach the same potential.”

For her part, John-Hall agreed that more positive attention needs to be paid to inner-city children.

“If you show a child you are interested in them, they will feel more appreciated and want to make a positive impact in whatever they choose to do,” said John-Hall. “We need to meet kids where they are. Meaning, if they are behind, don’t forget about them, and if they are advanced, don’t only exclude them. Include everyone with their best interest in mind.”

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