The Reverend Clyde H. Brooks was the keynote speaker for the inaugural Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Banquet program in Macomb. He said many people remain uncomfortable talking about race.
“Whites talk about race with each other. Blacks talk about race with each other. But we’ve got to cross over and get folks talking,” said Brooks, who is Chairman & CEO of the Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations (ICDHR).
“Whites are afraid that they’ll be accused of being racist if they’re open. And blacks are afraid of being charged with playing the race card. So you have these driven fears that make people say, ‘I don’t want to get into that. I’ll keep my private thoughts to myself.’”
Brooks believes the 2016 presidential election brought racism to the forefront. He said that’s not necessarily bad because it shined a light on the problem. But he’s concerned the problem is not being addressed and that racism could work its way into policy.
“I’m not concerned about Trump and his attitude. But I am concerned that his views could become policy. DACA is a good example,” Brooks said.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or Republican. Where is that humanity?”
Brooks said America is changing and within 50 years the majority of citizens will be people of color, which he called “the browning of America.” He said that scares some white people who fear they’re losing power and control.
“They’re not losing. They’re gaining. And that’s the whole point of diversity. Diversity is not quotas. Diversity is the realization that there is good in all, whether it’s black, brown, yellow, green,” he said.
“And that under merit we want to pick the best, not just out of one color but there’s good in all colors.”
Brooks said Dr. King demanded that America live up to the credo in its Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal.” And he said King did not blame the Ku Klux Klan or others who hated blacks and civil rights.
“He blamed all the good people who find themselves in church, who see evil, who hear evil, and elect to say nothing. We know evil and hate can only surface when good people are quiet because there are more good than bad.”
ICDHR is a 50-year old not-for-profit organization based in Arlington Heights. Brooks said the Commission creates human relations programs to address inequities along race, cultural, and gender lines.
The banquet was organized by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee of Mount Calvary Church of God in Christ. It took place at the Spoon River College Community Outreach Center.