Race, class are still obstacles in society

Sara Huebner

Peter Kirsanow, a Cleveland attorney, speaks on the 12th floor of the library last night as part of Kent State’s Black History Month events. Kirsanow spoke on the topic of “An Empowerment Program for the Underclass.” BETH RANKIN | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

In 2006 “we still have injustices based on race and class.”

That was the message Peter A. Kirsanow, member of the National Labor Relations Board and member of the Civil Rights Commission, delivered last night at the sixth annual Black History Month program hosted by Libraries and Media Services.

Kirsanow spoke on the topic of “An Empowerment Program for the Underclass.” He said three empowerment issues face minorities: education, ensuring family structure and owning property.

These empowerment issues or agendas have been in place for 50 years or so, Kirsanow said.

He also spoke about the victim grievance legislative model. This model is used to identify if a minority has been discriminated against and has three elements.

• First, identify the victim of discrimination.

• Second, there must be a distillation of grievance.

• Last, there must be a political solution to the problem.

Kirsanow said laws in place are a redundancy of the ’60s.

“We are in a post-civil rights era,” he said. “Any legislation that can be passed, has already been passed at some time.”

Minorities have always had to fight a battle in America, he said. The passing of several acts including the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, have given minorities many opportunities.

Though these facts may be true, minorities must always be vigilant about their rights.

“We are fighting battles today that we have already won,” he said. “There are others that we need to fight.”

Kirsanow also said there is a group of people who use factual and linguistical jujitsu to explain why events happen, which “truly inhibits our ability to factually address issues we are facing.”

One theory brought forward by this group was that black church burnings in the South happened because blacks were associated with them. Another was when the destruction was shown during Hurricane Katrina, all the faces on television were black, and all the people killed were black, Kirsanow said.

“All of those were myths on how we treat blacks,” he said.

In reality, a higher percentage of whites were killed in Hurricane Katrina than blacks, Kirsanow said. And the churches burned would have been burned either way.

Mark Weber, dean of Libraries and Media Services, had a good reason for bringing Kirsanow to campus.

“He offers a different perspective of empowerment that many of us, especially on a college campus, don’t get to hear,” Weber said.

Contact libraries and information services reporter Sara Huebner at [email protected].