America has to choose whether it's going to help minorities develop or let democracy deteriorate, said the Rev. C.T. Vivian, chairman of a group that monitors "hate crimes" in the United States.
"The defeat of racism has become necessary for the survival of America," said the Rev. Vivian, keynote speaker at a dinner sponsored by the YWCA and the US WEST Pluralism Council Friday at the Doubletree Hotel."America really wants to blame the victim. It is not a minority problem - it's a majority problem. Those who are not able to see it (racism) are not able to look at it realistically."
The Rev. Vivian is chairman for the Center for Democratic Renewal, which has been involved in tracking and reporting crimes it says are prompted by prejudice. He served as a personal aide to Martin Luther King Jr. and established the Vision program for black youths, which later became known as Upward Bound.
The cooperative effort of social agencies such as the YWCA and "great American businesses" such as US WEST to eliminate racism, sexism and homophobia is something unexpected but very necessary, said the Rev. Vivian. He added that whether America is going to be a leader of the new world depends on how it deals with members of minorities. America has not yet repented for its treatment of red, black and brown people, he said.
It is not a matter of technology, said the Rev. Vivian, it is a matter of humanism. He said Americans would have to eliminate racism to compete in the new world marketplace.
"Racism is central to the solving of every problem in America. We will find that we can't solve any other problems until we solve the problems of racism and sexism," the Rev. Vivian said.
Daily interactions between people are based on racism and sexism because of the unfair advantage given to some and disadvantage to others, he said. He asked Americans not to treat products of racism as "cultural diversity." He said 36 percent of black families live below the poverty level today and that by the year 1999 white males will make up only 16 percent of the work force.
"I remember when the word was `tolerance.' It was the word liberals used. I don't want to be `tolerated' - never did," said the Rev. Vivian. "No minority person will know what they might have been, what they might have become . . . had it not been for racism, sexism or homophobia," he said.
"Out of us will properly come a nation that will be accepted by the world. Strangely, it comes out of us who have been shunted aside because America cannot move without us," the Rev. Vivian said. He received a standing ovation from the audience at the end of his speech.