The Cambridge Human Rights Commission will hold a public hearing on April 30 to acknowledge that racism exists in Cambridge and to publicize the recourses available to its victims.
"In Cambridge a lot of people think, `well, it's a very liberal town, and racism doesn't happen here,' but weve gotten quite a few complaints," said Lori B. Rutter '89, a student intern at the city's Human Rights Commission, which will sponsor the day-long series of speakers and discussion panels.
Not a Response to Recent Charges
Val Hinderlie, chairman of the commission, said the hearing was planned to educate the public. She said it was not a response to recent charges of racism in the Cambridge police department. But Hinderlie added that the commission chose to hold the hearing partially because it has received many complaints of discrimination in housing and employment, as well as general harassment. She said the commission has never held such a hearing before.
The hearing, to be held at the Cambridge Ringe and Latin High School, will feature testimony by witnesses and victims of racism, and afternoon workshops led by experts. The event is open to the public, and the organizers hope to draw an audience of about 500, Rutter said.
"Racism is a very serious problem in our city, and although Cambridge has a reputation of being a very enlightened place, the problem is a real one," said City Councillor David E. Sullilvan, who plans to testify at the hearing.
He cited an incident at the Agassiz School last winter in which "White Power" and anti-Semitic graffitti was found defacing the walls of the school.
Sullivan said the upcoming hearing is not designed to improve Cambridge's image. In fact, he said, the city's image may suffer as witnesses come forward with stories of discrimination.
But despite the possibility of such damage, Sullivan called it important "to have people's consciousness raised about this issue."