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Pointes Confront Racial Past in Journey to Inclusion and Harmony

Racial tensions came to a head last year after Grosse Pointe Park police recorded and distributed cell phone video mocking a mentally challenged African-American man. Diverse GP is intent on changing the culture in the Pointes.

Diverse GP, a group formed in the fallout over the release cell phone video shot by police mocked a mentally challenged black man, hosted a capacity crowd at its first forum on racial tolerance. (Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images)
Diverse GP, a group formed in the fallout over the release cell phone video shot by police mocked a mentally challenged black man, hosted a capacity crowd at its first forum on racial tolerance. (Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images)

The Pointes are coming to grips with discrimination of the past – an issue that boiled over after Grosse Pointe Park police recorded and distributing videos that mocked a mentally challenged African-American man – and attempting to turn a page on a history that caused some blacks to call the area “Mississippi without the signs.”

Some 250 people turned out Thursday for a panel discussion on racial diversity sponsored by Diverse GP, a group that organized after the videos were released to look not only at an unflattering history of discrimination, but also look at ways to make the Grosse Pointes welcome, diverse and thriving communities.

The “2014: How Far Have We Come?” forum, Diverse GP’s first event, was moderated by WDET-FM radio talk-show host Craig Fahle of Grosse Pointe Park, who said creating racial harmony “is not a quick journey," the Detroit Free Press reports.

To understand how long the journey is, consider Marie Anderson’s story. The 78-year-old African-American recalled having to stay on her “side” of town in 1950s Detroit and away from the Pointes – or, as she and other black community members called it – “Mississippi without the signs.”

“I could not eat out in Grosse Pointe,” she said. “I could not even eat on the east side of Detroit.”

Anderson was one of the panelists recruited by Diverse GP, and she thinks discrimination still exists, the Detroit News said.

“I hate to say it,” she said, “but I think we still have it.”

Echoing that, college student Rodney Folsom, an African-American resident of Grosse Pointe Park, said that in cold-weather months, he’s hesitant to wear a hooded sweatshirt because he worries how others will perceive him.

“We need to see more diversity, be more accepting of other cultures,” he said. “I just want to see actual action happen.”

Real-estate agents reportedly helped develop an all-white culture 60 years ago, making bias more difficult to overcome.

“To keep this community white, in the 1950s, the real-estate agents banded together (and) people were very blatantly discriminated against,” said the Rev. Shelly Page, the minister at the Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church, where the forum was held.

Progress is occurring, however. After the cell phone videos of the black man singing and dancing with the caption “got to love the coloreds” surfaced, the city of Grosse Pointe Park suspended five officers for their roles in recording and sharing them and agreed to train police personnel in cultural competency, customer service and racial profiling.

Members of the group will review the comments made Thursday and determine if another meeting is needed or other avenues should be explored.

The overflow crowd at the Diverse GP event told member Maria Catalfio that “people are hungry to have this conversation.”

TELL US: What are you doing to promote racial diversity and harmony in your town?
Beth Dalbey March 21, 2014 at 04:14 PM
Good point. Sincere thanks to you for pointing it out. I'll make an edit.
Eduardo Garcia March 21, 2014 at 07:38 PM
Same old tired left-wing narrative of racial conflict. It is the fault of the white person: 100% of the time. Leftists believe that in each and every instance of racial and ethnic conflict, it is 100% the fault of the white person involved. Every time. It's never 50%. The Black person is never 20% at fault, or 50%, or 90%. Can you white liberals ever imagine that maybe Blacks are to blame for 50% of instances of racial conflict? Or maybe they're to blame for 80%? or even more? No. You think a white person is always, 100% of time, 100% to blame, for each and every instance of conflict between the races. It's never the other way around in your mind.
Eduardo Garcia March 22, 2014 at 03:19 AM
They should ship the Blacks to the Detroit of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and then grant the island independence. According to liberals, mass immigration increases economic prosperity and enriches whole societies with wonderful cultural diversity.
kim hudson March 22, 2014 at 12:15 PM
Just from reading these (only 4) comments, its sad that people are STILL dumb and ignorant to serious issues such as this! If you don't have anything positive to say pertaining to the topic, don't say anything! Keep your racist comments on your social page.
Eduardo Garcia March 23, 2014 at 11:52 PM
Kim Hudson > You mean sort of like the "black community" that is always being organized by "community organizers."

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