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EAST LANSING –
A gathering of statewide community leaders to discuss diversity and inclusion in a Michigan without affirmative action, had many participants concerned about the event’s apparent exclusion of certain groups Tuesday.
“It was billed as a statewide organization for diversity and inclusion for all,” said John Roy Castillo, executive director of Cristo Rey Community Center in Lansing. “It was just discussions about black and white, male and female. For an organization that has been around for over 50 years, they should have been more sensitive.”
Castillo was discussing the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion Diversity Summit. The speakers generally addressed black and white race issues, and sexism. The event featured no speakers from the Hispanic, Asian Pacific, Muslim, Jewish, Native American or LBGT communities.
“I am sorry,” said Thomas Costello, president and CEO of the Michigan Roundtable, to the crowd. “I was not part of the planning process, but it won’t happen again.” Costello was responding to a question about the exclusion of other groups from speaking.
Comments made by Linda Parker, the director of the Michgian Department of Civil Rights, also raised concerns. Asked about hate crimes legislation, Parker began her explanation to the crowd by saying, “If you want to join that movement…”
In an interview later, Parker clarified her statement. “I was speaking of the movement to amend the Ethnic Intimidation Act. I did not mean to imply the LBGT community was a separate movement.”
Kate Runyon, intrim executive director of Triangle Foundation, said she was uncomfortable with Parker’s statement, but she also felt it was important not to jump up.
“If we were going to jump up and demand that LBGT issues be addressed, we would lose people,” Runyon said.
A presentation was made about additional anti-affirmative action ballot measures appearing across the country, but it was not noted that all five states targeted this year have previously been targeted for anti-gay marriage initiatives. The five states are Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, Arizona and Oklahoma. Michigan passed an amendment to the state consitution in 2004 banning same-sex marriage and in 2006 the state passed an anti-affirmative action amendment to the state constitution.
“I think coming from our persepective, we see these as obvious,” said Runyon, “but for people outside our community it might not be obvious. It is part of our responsibility to see the issues and bring it forward.”