Durham Historian an Advisor to Clinton's Race Committee
Posted June 17, 1997
DURHAM — President Clinton is urging Americans to confront racism while there's no crisis. To support this goal, Clinton created a commission on race relations. The board's chairman, a reknowned historian and author, hails from the Bull City.
John Hope Franklin knows America's struggles with racism. He's written more than a dozen books on the subject. "From Slavery to Freedom" has even been rewritten in several languages. A recipient of the President's Medal of Honor, Franklin is now the head of the Commission on Race Relations. The group will advise the President on how to create dialogue about diversity.
Franklin says part of the healing begins in the past. He says racial problems go well beyond slavery. Talking about the issues may not be in itself a final healing process, but it's certainly a beginning.
Franklin says it is the baggage that precedes slavery that causes the racial divide in the 1990s. During the 17th Century some whites held a negative attitude towards blacks and people of color. It was for that reason that blacks were considered physiologically and psychologically inferior.
Franklin says the strategy of the President and the Commission must focus on erasing such ingrained attitudes through discussions that at times will be painful. It's a matter of getting to know each other in a way we don't already.
Franklin is confident that America can overcome this racial divide. He hopes the Commission and the President will jump start race relations and let the healing begin. Franklin says the Commission on Race Relations will meet again in mid-July to discuss strategy for its year-long mission.