Blacks find pluses, minuses
King holiday tests Utahns' commitment to diversity
"There's something that has to be said for the people that live in Saratoga Springs and Utah County," she said. "I've never ever experienced anything negative. I think people here would welcome anyone willing to take a leadership role. Before I moved to Utah, my views about Utah was that it was a place with a whole bunch of polygamists who live together and have racial issues. Instead, my husband and I can walk down the street and hold hands and nobody says anything, but if I do that in New York I get comments from some groups."
Last month the Justice Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., provided evidence that by at least one measure, Utah County treats blacks equally. African-Americans in Salt Lake County are eight times more likely to do jail time for drugs, according to the study. Utah County was only one of five out of 198 counties studied where no racial disparity in drug imprisonment was found.
Leaders of local police agencies say they do not engage in racial profiling. -->
Smith is proud that the Provo School District has made the use of racial slurs a violation of the district's safe-schools policy.
Still more needs to be done, especially because blacks reported that they still hear the N-word in Utah Valley with disturbing frequency. That shouldn't be a surprise, author Darron T. Smith said, because the word is prevalent in pop culture.
"Black folks use it," he said. "So white folks think it's OK for them to use it, too."
Smith, no relation to Tamu Smith, edited the 2006 book "Black and Mormon" and has taught at BYU and Utah Valley State College. He is completing a study with BYU's Jacobson for his dissertation on trans-racial adoption. Parents who have adopted African-American children may participate in the study by taking a survey at www.racialadoptionstudy.com. The study has moderated Smith's views.
"In certain circumstances, white parents need to adopt black children," he said. -->
Smith said his experience in Utah County has been "boring" with no examples of covert racism.
"African-Americans will let smaller incidents slide," he said. "When people ask them if they've experienced racism, they think about grandiose things. I don't really experience grandiose examples of racism, though I have friends who say they have."
Love said African-Americans need to have a good attitude, not assuming that every slight is about race. And Smith said blacks need to build networks. She felt completely alone when she moved to Utah to go to school, going days at a time without seeing anyone of her race. Now she seeks out for her children the companionship, and mentoring, of members of the black student unions at BYU and UVSC. She also organizes summer picnics for local African-American families.
The majority population shouldn't be afraid to talk about race, Smith and Craghead said, though they acknowledged that many whites here have a sense of a reverse racial battle fatigue. Racial inexperience, whether it be lifelong or from many years living in Utah Valley, leaves some nervous to say anything to African-Americans for fear they may offend.
"You and I can never know what it's like to be black or Latino," Craghead said. "As a white guy, you and I can move into any neighborhood in the valley. If we were black, Hispanic or Asian, we'd have to stop and think, will I be accepted here? Will parents tell their children not to talk to my kids? Will moving in bring more patrol cars to the neighborhood?"We shouldn't be offended when people of color say there is a harsh racial climate out there. Can we change it? I believe we can. I really believe in the goodness of people. But we need to start looking at our own social conventions and see where they come from because the stereotypes are all false."
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