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2 B&H authors discuss racism on prime-time Lifetime panel

NEW YORK (BP)–Two Broadman & Holman authors appeared during TV’s prime time Oct. 24 as guests on a panel moderated by ABC News’ Cokie Roberts and Deborah Roberts to discuss “the provocative and sometimes painful subject” of race relations on the Lifetime women’s cable network.
Among the 16 panelists were Jo Kadlecek and Pamela Toussaint, two of the four co-authors of “I Call You Friend,” a book about race relations and cross-cultural relationships released earlier this year by Broadman & Holman, the trade publishing arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In their book, Kadlecek, Toussaint and the other two authors, Andrea Clark and Elvon Reed Borst, recount their lives — Kadlecek and Clark are white; Toussaint and Borst are black — and how they became friends in New York City.
In introducing the authors, Cokie Roberts said “I Call You Friend” has encouraged people to talk with their friends about possible racism, conscious and unconscious, in their relationships.
During the one-hour Lifetime panel discussion, “I’m Not a Racist But … Small Steps Toward Healing the Hate,” produced by ABC News and taped before a studio audience, Toussaint said she and her co-authors have received a huge response “because people aren’t having these conversations.” Having trusting, honest relationships with friends of various races is important to eventually having a non-racist society, she said.
“We have to get to the point where we recognize that there might be a problem, that we’re probably not going to be a majority in the next 50 years in this country … and how our lives can be enriched from one another,” Kadlecek said.
People need first to develop friendships across racial lines, she said. Then, in the context of friendships, people can talk about racism and make progress toward understanding and valuing each other.
Racism is the number one problem facing the nation as its citizens enter the new millennium, Deborah Roberts said. Yet, Cokie Roberts said, most people in America today would say they “harbor no ill-feelings toward people of another race,” when asked by a friend or on a survey if they are prejudiced.
“History and experience tell us otherwise,” Cokie Roberts said. Although the United States “has made tremendous strides toward racial equality in the past 40 years and our country grows more multi-racial every day,” still racism “in both its subtle and not-so-subtle forms persists,” she said.
Noting racial episodes are not something of “the ancient past,” Deborah Roberts, who is not yet 40, she said remembers segregation “very well,” particularly colored waiting rooms at doctors’ offices. Cokie Roberts — whose father, Congressman Hale Boggs of New Orleans, was singled out in the 1960s by the Ku Klux Klan for his pro-civil rights stand — said she remembers seeing a cross burning on the front lawn of her childhood home in 1964.
She pointed out that just the day before, Oct. 23, the Ku Klux Klan held an afternoon march through New York City streets, “proof that racism, even in its most extreme form, is alive and sick.”
A variety of cultures were represented on the panel, including Oriental, Indian and Hispanic. The goal of the show was to encourage adults to “move past some of the biases and toward greater respect and understanding” for each other, Deborah Roberts said, noting the best time and opportunity for reducing prejudice thinking is during a child’s preschool and elementary years.
The discussion followed a two-hour special presentation of Lifetime’s critically acclaimed drama, “Any Day Now,” set in the 1990s. During the Oct. 24 episode, “It’s Not About the Butter,” the friendship of the series’ two main characters, M.E. (played by Annie Potts) and Rene (played by Lorraine Toussaint) is threatened by a debate over racism after one of the women mistakes an African American woman in a restaurant for a waitress. Tensions are further heightened when M.E. discovers not only that her uncle is an active member of the Ku Klux Klan, but also that he has posted a hit list on the Internet, singling out Rene and her mother as targets. Rene is a well-educated and wealthy, single black lawyer; her childhood friend, M.E., is a middle-class mother who always wanted to be a writer.
During the panel discussion, Toussaint recounted a recent shopping incident in Beverly Hills when — simply because she was black — she was suspected by the manager of being an armed shoplifter.
Part of what white America doesn’t understand, Deborah Roberts said, is that “every single day” people of color have to consider whether a white person may have been plain rude, or made an honest mistake in his or her actions and accusations, or been deliberately racist. She said she and other women of color must constantly process, “Am I being a paranoid black woman, or is that person just being a jerk?” as she recalled a recent encounter in a hotel when another guest assumed she was on the hotel’s maid staff. Nancy Miller, creator and executive producer of “Any Day Now,” said she struggled for eight years to get her idea for a dramatic series on the air, as posted on Lifetime’s website about the show. The drama seeks to “turn television into a tool for change” and regularly “explores the relationship between two childhood friends who grew up in Alabama at the height of the civil rights movement.”
Rebroadcasts of Sunday episodes typically are offered the following Saturday night. Contact local cable companies concerning the rebroadcast time for this special presentation.

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  • Debbie Moore