Diversity shifts in wake of Sept. 11

Sept. 11 has reframed the national dialogue about diversity, Hubert G. Locke says.

“Diversity has been a polite topic for about a decade, but 9-11 raised the discussion of diversity to a new level,” Locke said. “I think we are at the beginning of a whole different kind of diversity challenge.”

Locke, retired dean of the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs who has devoted his professional life to considering issues of race and justice, will speak Jan. 13 on “What’s America becoming? The Changing Profile of the American People.”

The terrorist attacks have given discussion of diversity a new urgency, Locke believes, as Americans discover this country’s Muslim population – and try to avoid past mistakes.

“Here we suddenly notice there are seven or eight million American who are Muslims that I suppose we haven’t paid attention to until now – and not all of them are Arab,” Locke said. “Suddenly, in the last two months, there’s a tendency to view that segment askance. “If we can come to grips with this new feature of the landscape, we’ll be the better for it,” Locke said. “If we can’t, we’ll be in real trouble.”

Locke, who holds degrees from Wayne State, the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago, brings the weight of 30 years of scholarly research and writing to bear on the question of how “outsider” populations are treated.

As a young student of religion at the University of Chicago, Locke’s exposure to the writings of German theologians made him curious about the role of the German church during the Third Reich.

He learned that while a handful religious leaders opposed the Nazis, few of these addressed the fate of the Jews.

Locke’s inquiries led him to write three books about the Holocaust and publish more than a dozen papers on the subject.

His most recent book is “Learning from History: How a Christian Black American Views the Holocaust” (Greenwood Press, 2000).

Locke knows that as a black man writing about the Holocaust he is an oddity, but he disagrees with Jews who believe the subject should be reserved for Jewish scholars.

“It is my issue,” Locke said. “The most important thing one can say is that it’s not a Jewish issue.”

Locke points to the parallel outsider positions of Jews and blacks in Western culture, and notes that had Hitler won, the two groups would have suffered the same fate.

Locke believes that the the early, widespread theory that the Holocaust was a German aberration has been disproved by the last half-century of repeated genocide in other countries.

He constructs a model to better understand the phenomenon, dividing the Germans of the Third Reich into perpetrators, victims, bystanders and resistors.

“It’s still a useful paradigm, Locke said. “If we can find out more about bystanders and resistors, maybe we can help prevent more holocausts.”

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