City Looks at Race Relations

Residents Say Councillors Must Improve Communication

City councillors must improve communication with citizens on issues of racial injustice, members of the Cambridge Unity and Justice Commission said during last night's City Council meeting.

The commission, charged with investigating race relations in Cambridge, was created by Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves '72 after the Rodney King verdict last spring.

It released a report on its activities and recommendations at the meeting.

The recommendations are based on citizen concerns raised during five community meetings held in different neighborhoods over the past year.

Citizens' Input


During the meetings, commissioners asked participants what they thought the city could do to improve racial and ethnic equity, what the commission could do, and what citizens themselves could do, said commission Chair Sylvia Saavedra-Keber.

Three of the main topics addressed both at the meetings and in the report were equity in education, physical abuse in law enforcement and control of city violence and racial bias.

Commission member Sheli Wortis said schools must begin educating children at an early age about the roots of prejudice.

Wortis also said schools must be more active in teaching languages other than English, recruiting teachers who speak these languages and using books that are inclusive and accurate in their depictions of diverse ethnicities.

Despair of Youth

Another commission member, Rev. Jeffrey Brown, said many of the city's problems with violence originate in young people's despair and disillusionment with society.

A sense of powerlessness, he said, "leads to subversive and destructive expressions of power."

To alleviate these problems, commission members suggested an increase in school and public discussion on violence.

The commission members said that racial bias and physical abuse in law enforcement, which citizens at the meetings had cited as problems, can be partially prevented by improved police training and better dialogue among the police and community members.

Commission's True Mandate