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People with power and authority send messages more by their deeds than by their words.Those who are asked to engage in learning activities meant to improve intergroup relations will usually want to know what those who have put them into the situation have done and are doing about the lessons they are being asked to learn. Seeking to change individuals without dealing with these influences, or without engaging the specific issues that shape intergroup relations, is often futile.
Moreover, whites have varying cultures and identities.
Raising awareness of this reality may serve to increase the sophistication of the lesson being taught and learned.
First, the level of commitment to the goal will vary within the school, program, or organization.
Second, the expertise needed to adequately integrate experiences that promote positive intergroup relations is scarce.
Second, prejudice and discrimination are socially influenced.
Thus, altering our own behavior may require that we enlist the support of others.There are good reasons to start teaching the importance of and strategies for positive intergroup relations when children are young. As children mature, they become more conscious of racial and ethnic differences, and the many sources of prejudice and discrimination they experience can influence them in negative ways.Lessons learned at an early age or at the time a person becomes a member of an organization may not stick even though they do make later lessons related to prejudice and discrimination easier to teach and learn.Thus, strategies to improve race relations need to include both highly focused activities and efforts to ensure that positive intergroup relations are pursued throughout the organization involved.Efforts to improve intergroup relations often overstate differences among and within racial and ethnic groups, and neglect beliefs and values that are shared across racial and ethnic “lines.” The search for generalizations that would promote sensitivity to differences and encourage positive responses to those differences often leads to oversimplification.When those in positions of authority are too busy too participate in race relations programs, the impact of the program will be undermined unless the leaders’ record on the issue of discrimination is clear.People in organizations where better intergroup relations and equity are being advocated will ask whether those in authority are modeling appropriate behaviors and “walking the talk.” They will also want to know whether qualified persons of color are being aggressively recruited for high offices, whether those who pursue equity with enthusiasm are being supported and rewarded, and whether those who engage in discriminatory behavior are being negatively sanctioned.In many organizations, new participants are told of the organizations’ commitment to positive intergroup relations.This introduction may include workshops on “diversity” or other activities aimed at facilitating racial and ethnic harmony in the organizations.The best-documented strategy for improving racial and ethnic relations involves the creation of opportunities for positive equalstatus interaction among people from different groups.These strategies are most effective when they organize cooperative activities so as to ensure that people from different backgrounds can contribute equally to the task involved.