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Jacobs sets the record straight at Shepherd

January 18, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERSTOWN, W.Va. - Bruce A. Jacobs was out to set some things straight Wednesday night at Shepherd University.

Namely:

· There are people who are "sick with racism" who will attack or perhaps kill someone like him or someone who is gay.

· That it is legal in Maryland to discriminate against people because they are gay.

· That people need to rely on other sources of information besides the "media machines" in the United States.

· That different people's life experiences differ and that the common reaction in big media to tell people to "shut up" only perpetuates the disillusionment people feel in dealing with today's issues.

Jacobs has spent a lot of time examining race issues and power structures in the country. The author has appeared at dozens of universities, churches and other functions, and has been on C-SPAN BookTV, National Public Radio and dozens of radio call-in shows to talk about the issues.

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Jacobs, who is from Rochester, N.Y., wrote "Race Manners," a practical guide for blacks and whites to help them break through the barriers that divide them.

The Harvard graduate, whose writings also have appeared in The (Baltimore) Sun, Atlanta Review and Black Enterprise, was invited to speak at Shepherd as part of the school's celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday this week.

Speaking to a crowd of about 80 people at the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies Auditorium, Jacobs didn't waste time sugarcoating issues.

People who are willing to hurt to kill others because of racist views cannot be changed through debate or discussion and those people will "just have to rant" until society changes, Jacobs said.

And discrimination still is legal in some respects, Jacobs said.

For example, Jacobs said it is legal in Maryland for someone to discriminate against gays, such as not leasing an apartment to a person because of sexual preference.

But Jacobs said he did not want those in attendance to "walk out of here with your head between your knees. Our society will change for the better," he said.

Jacobs gave the audience pointers on how to go out in the world and raise objections and fight for issues important to them like King did.

Jacobs criticized corporate media in the U.S., which he said has turned debates about important issues into personality attacks and cheapened the idea of good journalism.

Today, many reporters quote someone on one side of an issue and report the lies and spin. The reporters then go to the other side and report the lies and spin and call it a story, Jacobs said.

What reporters fail to do is find out who is lying and report it.

"That's what we're missing today, is that kind of journalism," Jacobs said.

Jacobs said there is a wealth of independent news sources online, and urged people not to rely on only one source for news.

Jacobs warned those in attendance that pushing for change is not easy, and he said although King is popular today for the things he stood up for, it was not easy for him in the 1960s.

"He was hounded. He was vilified," Jacobs said.

Joseph Jefferson of Hagerstown, who attended Jacobs' speech, said it seems there was progress in race relations in the country for years. Jefferson asked Jacobs if he thought that progress had slowed.

Jacobs said he believes race relations improved until about 1970, but progress began to slow in the 1980s. That's when Reagan-era policies began to go into effect and there was a feeling that poor people were responsible for being poor and the focus needed to be on how to make fortunate people more fortunate, Jacobs said.

"Race relations suffered along with that," Jacobs said.

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