We must stop looking for one solution to our racial problems . . . The reality is that the problem has no single or simple solution. If there is one answer, it lies in recognizing how complex the issue has become and in not using the complexity as an excuse for inaction. In short, we must attack the enemy on many fronts."
EllisCose, Newsweek, November 25, 1996
Promoting the use of study circles on racism and race relations is one way that the Iowa Civil Rights Commission fights discrimination.
Iowa now has seven communities in the process of planning, organizing, and conducting community-wide study circles on racism and race relations. Those communities are: Des Moines, Storm Lake, Sioux City, Muscatine, Cedar Valley/Waterloo, Fort Dodge, Dubuque, and Burlington.
People in several other communities Ottumwa, Denison, Fort Madison, and are working to build sponsoring coalitions so they can offer their fellow residents the opportunity to take part in study circles.
A study circle meets 4 or 5 times, 2 hours each time. Eight to 15 people comprise one circle. A community-wide circle program has 3 to 20 circles going on at any one time. A sponsoring coalition, a collection of interested persons and organizations, plans and organizes the circle program.
In the first study circles session, participants share personal experiences, stories, and perspectives about race relations. In the subsequent three or four sessions, the group tackles, in a democratic dialogue format, the following issues:
With the help of a neutral, trained facilitator, participants share experiences, opinions, and information. All viewpoints are considered and respected. Everyone gets a chance to participate and contribute. Everyone gets an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the issues and to work towards a solution in a collaborative way.
President Clinton has called for a national initiative and dialogue on race. His recent "Town Meeting on Race" held in Akron, Ohio, was the first in a series of meetings to highlight the need for dialogue.
The people of Iowa have an excellent opportunity to participate in this dialogue by urging their communities to organize study circles, and then to become part of a circle. Together, we can make it work!
In September 1995, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) tested 14 landlords in the Des Moines area to see if families with children would be welcome as applicants for rental units. In 5 or 36% of those tests, families with children were either discouraged or rejected as applicants.
In September and October 1997, the ICRC re-tested Des Moines area landlords. This time, the ICRC conducted 74 family status tests and found only 4 landlords or 5% not following the law.