Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in resources provided by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Arizona State University (OLLI at ASU), "Reflections on Race" by OLLI at ASU staff, instructors, and members, and other conversations talking about racial inequity in OLLI at ASU programs, projects and/or events are those of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of OLLI at ASU. Agreeing to the terms and conditions of the OLLI at ASU Student Member Code of Conduct is mandatory to become an OLLI at ASU member.

Member Reflections on Race

In our "Reflections on Race" series, we encourage OLLI at ASU members, staff, and instructors to reflect on their past experiences, give space for their present emotions and thoughts, and provide insight and hope for the future. What do you want the younger generations to know about your experiences with race? What can we learn from the things you have heard, seen, participated in, felt, done? What has the present moment reminded you about the past? 

We will be sending this project to ASU students, so they may learn from us as we learn from them.

Click here to submit your Reflection on Race.

Click here to read Staff Reflections on Race.

Member Reflections

The BLM Movement vs. Racism Awareness
by John A.Yaeger

I’d like to discuss a subject that is uncomfortable for many: the recent surge of the long overdue focus on racism.

I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with the “Black Lives Matter” catchphrase being thrusted in my view everywhere I turn: on Netflix, Direct TV (and other networks I pay for), the news and just about every advertisement for products and services. The trendy BLM logo, with the three horizontal yellow lines, are popping up everywhere. Even some TV shows begin with a statement of support for BLM. I get notifications from my public library, local shops and restaurants claiming they support this movement by sending out emails and putting up signs in their windows. It’s as if all businesses are afraid their African-American customers will start a boycott.

Now, even ASU freely uses the Black Lives Matter logo and has no less than ten webpages on their website full of support statements from every ASU college and department. Is it that they support African-Americans in their quest for equality? If so, sign me up! I’ve long been concerned with racism in America. It’s indeed a shameful part of our culture and history. But the ASU website uses the logo from the Black Lives Matter Global Network—an admitted Marxist organization filled with agitators who turn peaceful demonstrations into full-blown riots! The ASU Library page proudly offers a video interview of the founders of this Marxist organization. The disturbing thing is that an institution of higher education should inherently not take a political stand.

The trending thing to do these days is to jump on board the BLM train to show you’re not a racist, but it takes more than words—it takes actions. In fact, the actions of the Black Lives Matter Global Network seems bent on causing a greater racial divide in America with overtones of anarchy (they want to defund the police, hence, law & order). The constitution grants us the right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. As soon as a person assaults a police officer, or hurls a rock through a storefront window, that protested becomes a rioter. Why is no one acknowledging this? We’ve all seen the videos of rioters and looters destroying a mall in Scottsdale, many holding BLM signs.

After this summer, anyone who doesn’t know what the B-L-M letters stand for has been living under a rock. I wonder how many understand the difference between “the movement” and The Black Lives Matter Global Network. But if ASU, and others on the BLM train, want to raise awareness of racism in America, perhaps they can remind people of the names: Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Denise McNair. Only then will we be able to understand the unimaginable hatred against black-Americans. Their names should invoke a call-to-arms among civilized Americans of every background. Sadly, my guess is that most people reading this will have to Google those names.

Since the founding of America, black people have been given an incredibly raw deal (to put it mildly). America’s treatment of black-Americans—even 100 years after slavery ended—is one of the most shameful periods in our country’s history. The pendulum of equality was firmly embedded far left of center. Racism was demonstrated on many levels from job and housing discrimination to lynchings condoned by authorities. The Civil Rights movement finally made headway in getting the government to seek justice and equality for black-Americans, which they for so long, richly deserve.

Unfortunately, not all Americans agreed with their government; racism is still prevalent in American society today. (This even after electing a black president, members in both houses of Congress, and federal judges right up to the Supreme Court.) African-Americans are still not able to sit at America’s table with a true sense of belonging.

The BLM Global Network, unlike the Civil Rights movement (of the 1950s - 1960s), is attracting people who want to push the pendulum of equality way past the center and have it permanently embedded on the right. The fight for justice during the Civil Rights movement sought equality by working to push the pendulum in the middle where it belongs.

Why can’t we all work harder to place the pendulum of fairness and equality in the middle? By trying to push it all the way to the right as a punitive action for past sins, will interrupt the cause by widening the division further. During the turn of the 20th century, we were proud to call ourselves “The Melting Pot.” Obviously, it didn’t include everyone, but perhaps this time we can get it right.

Mortal Sin by Joe Salembier

my vision
filtered through a multicolored lens
makes me hesitate
because the way forward is blurred
and the past dark 
hiding roots long buried
now emerging
exposing Black pain and 
our shame
realizing the fix we’re in
making white side platitudes and 
sleight of hand promises
while doing nothing
our mortal sin
turning tomorrow
into yesterday
all over again;
now the race begins
to change the filter 
seeing through Black eyes only
which sharpens the focus
on a way to begin
before we turn tomorrow into yesterday
all over again
and again 

Reflections of a white father, by Oliver Gerland

Father’s Day 2020

Dear children, the confluence of COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd and race-baiting, pandemic-denying national leaders make this Father’s Day different. It’s different because we are in a perfect storm. Mr. Floyd’s killing would have been just one more death of a Black man resisting arrest. Except, it was viewed by millions, as the latest slaying of Black men, women and children by White men over centuries. Today’s racism is the continuation of 430 plus years of America’s second original sin, slavery. Today’s reality demands self-reflection.

When you were growing up we talked about treating everyone with respect and not to be prejudice. Now I see that was inadequate. Our discussions should have been much deeper.

My Sons - This Father’s Day is different because I realize I didn’t have “The Talk” with you explaining: “When (not if) you are stopped by the police, be polite; keep your hands where the police can see them; don’t talk back; say yes sir, no sir. Don't be aggressive. Follow their directions.” I didn’t have “The Talk” because, by the accident of birth, you are not Black or Brown. None of us has been stopped for driving while White; stopped walking or running in our own neighborhood due to the color of our skin.

Working in a department store in the nineteen sixties I was instructed to follow any Black person as a suspected shoplifter. That and other demeaning practices continue today as part of a system of structural advantage. We have not been called names, ignored or disrespected because of the color of our skin. Our freedom has not been denied based on our race. Have I told you that the poor and all racial minorities have been denied freedom?

My daughter of color – We talked about your heritage but I have not prepared or given you the protection needed to endure the discrimination you face daily. I have not understood what it is like to be caught in two worlds; the taunting, name calling and threats you continue to experience. I heard but haven’t listened. I will now.

The plight of Black and all marginalized people is affected by systemic racism when it comes to: employment, housing, education, health services and disparity in wealth. Systemic racism will end when it is recognized and reconciled by creating systems, organizations, institutions and services that treat all people equally, including the freedoms promised by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

It is difficult to talk about racism, but I must. One becomes defensive when discussing White privilege, but I must. I need to speak up when someone makes a racist comment or a joke. I must speak up when someone says “I don’t see color,” denying the person’s individuality. I must respond when someone says, “I’m not prejudice” by confessing and confronting my own biases.

I have a long way to go and ask for your help and understanding.

With Love,
Your Father

Reflection by Tanya Baker, Caucasian woman

"When we’re in a group and another person comes into the group that looks or speaks differently than the majority does, why do we think this person is going to take something, instead of bring something? Let’s embrace diversity, change, and inclusion, not be rooted in fear and divisiveness. E Pluribus Unum."

Reflection by OLLI member, 70-year-old female

"It's inhumane to cage children. It's inhumane to separate children from their parents and not have a reunification program in place.  The US needs a common sense, safe and thoughtful  immigration policy. Not one that locks children and parents up separately for an unlimited time.  Our 2017 & 2018 immigration enforcement policies reflect big business contracts awarded by the present administration. This topic is the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed."

Reflection by Cdem, Woman of Color

"Support Equality across the global world"


More to come!
Click here to submit your Reflection on Race.