"An Open Letter to All
Iowans" and the "Action Plan to Eliminate Racial Prejudice." In February 1987, the Iowa Civil
Rights Commission began receiving an increased number of reports concerning
racially-motivated hate/violence incidents. These incidents or events occurred
in the aftermath of nationally exposed events in Forsythe County, Georgia,
and Queens, New York. Earlier, during the fall of 1986, the Commission received
numerous reports concerning merchants in Iowa who were selling racially
offensive and derogatory products, mainly dolls and clothing. On this backdrop,
the Commissioners directed staff to devise an appropriate response.
During the Commission meeting
held in March 1987, the Commissioners adopted "An Open Letter to All
Iowans, The Most Challenging Issue: The Elimination of Racial Prejudice."
The "Open Letter" defines the problem of racial prejudice in Iowa
and asks all Iowans to commit themselves to its elimination. The Commissioners
also adopted what was termed an "Action Plan for the Elimination of
Racial Prejudice in Iowa." The "Plan" detailed specific things
that Iowans could do to help eliminate racial prejudice from Iowa.
The Commissioners believed that through wide public dissemination of these documents and the execution of the "Action Plan," the first steps toward making Iowa a better place for all races would be achieved.
Dear Fellow Iowans:
We as Iowans have always held a steadfast commitment to the principle of the abolition of all forms of racial prejudice; a commitment that is a distinguishing feature of our State. In the past few years some Iowans have taken this principle for granted as several indicators "suggest a backslide in the struggle to change attitudes about intolerance." There is some evidence that the commitment of the great mass of Americans may be weakening. Evidence also suggests that some Iowans may be no different. The great struggles of the fifties, sixties and seventies have had encouraging results: laws compelling fair employment practices with respect to racial minorities have been promulgated, as well as laws and court decisions affirming the rights of all citizens to equal opportunity of access to education and public services. Affirmative Action has been largely successful: the members of racial minorities have achieved high positions in business, government and the professions. But, by no means, has it been complete.
But, all is not well. Recent racial attacks in Queens, New York, Forsyth County, Georgia, and in South Carolina are only an outgrowth of the decline of our country's commitment to the principle of the elimination of racial prejudice. We in Iowa have not been immune from this decline, as evidenced by racial incidents in Iowa cities. Such incidents are indicators that our climate for tolerance and our commitment to the principle of the elimination of racial prejudice are on the wane.
The Iowa Civil Rights Commission, which has as its mission the elimination of discrimination and the establishment of equality and justice for all persons within the state through civil rights enforcement, advocacy and education, takes seriously its leadership role in eradicating racial prejudice in Iowa. But we cannot do it alone. We need your assistance.
The Commission has identified two (2) areas of concern that need attention relating to the reestablishment of an Iowa environment free of racial prejudice. First, we need to rid our places of public accommodation (stores) of all racially derogatory or stereotypical merchandise. And, second, we need to educate those who participate in racially motivated hate/violence incidents.
The Commission has developed a "Plan of Action" that will allow Iowa to renew its commitment to the elimination of all forms of racial prejudice and to again make it a distinguishing characteristic of our State.
Iowa Civil Rights Commission
I. Do what you can to eliminate racism at home, school, and work. When you see or hear acts or statements of racism, EDUCATE! Tell the actor or speaker that racism is unacceptable and that we must endeavor to get to know and understand all races of people.
II. All places of public accommodation (establishments which sell merchandise to the public) should review their inventories and remove all merchandise which one could reasonably identify as being racially offensive to some individuals.
a) If you need assistance in determining whether any particular merchandise may be racially offensive to some individuals, please call the Commission for assistance.
b) We are asking all merchants to report the removal of any merchandise they have determined is racially offensive to some individuals. The Commission will write a letter to the merchant commending him/her for such action.
III. All Iowans should call the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and report any racial incident occurring in Iowa or any display or sale of merchandise by an Iowa merchant which is racially offensive to some individuals.
After receiving such reports the Commission may:
a) Contact the merchant involved and offer its educational services.
b) Contact the parties or community involved in the reported racial incidents and offer to provide race relations training or other appropriate services.
C) The Commission is making available to all Iowa merchants
its educational resources in the effort to make commercial environments
pleasant for all Iowans.
IV. All Iowans who are interested
in participating in Regional Councils on the Elimination of Racial Prejudice,
please call the Commission.
The Commission shall establish three (3) Councils (West, Central, and East) to monitor the racial tolerance climate in Iowa.
V . Reports to the Commission may be made anonymously and will be held in strict confidence.