A recent speech by President Simmons reminded me about Brown's connection to slavery. It is a very painful reality for me to accept. Slaves labored to construct a building on campus? That took my breath away. The University has been forthright in attempting to help the Brown community learn and grow from this sordid connection. In a different context, I found a parallel to Brown's racism connected to racism in my own life.
I described my experience in an essay the BAM published last summer ("Lessons in Prejudice," Alumni POV, July/August). I was surprised by the response to the essay. Eight Brown alumni either wrote a letter to the BAM or e-mailed me their thoughts. Two of the correspondents, Hope Rias '97 and Kerry E'lyn Larkin '98, punctured my illusion that with the completion of my essay I could move beyond racism. They both made me think on a deeper level that racism is like a chronic illness. I can work at keeping acute flare-ups under control, but there is no cure.
Out of this correspondence we have formed an e-mail support group to share our experiences with and observations about racism, as well as helpful books or articles. I'm not isolated any more. I have fellow Brunonians to learn from. If anyone (students are welcome) would like to find out more, contact me at email@example.com and I'll plug you into the recipient list.
I do have one note of regret about my essay. I read the letter from Bill Silvert '58, '65 PhD in the March/April 2011 BAM ("Race in the 1960s," Mail Room) and discovered that the NAACP was not the only civil rights group on campus in the 1960s. He was very involved in the Congress of Racial Equality at the time. I wonder if the separate organizations could have achieved an even greater impact on racism if they had been able to collaborate?
That was the past. For the present I welcome Bill to join our e-mail group. We call it Sisters and Brothers. His experiences would be a valuable addition.
Tom Bale '63
Elkins Park, Pa.