I am writing in response to the article "Delhi counter-protester: I'm not a racist monster."

In my college teaching career the subject of human equality (both race and gender) was vital. I was privileged to study under Kenneth Clark, eminent African-American social psychologist at Harvard. He wrote the defining brief presented at Brown v. Board of Education (Supreme Court desegregation case). Race has been a major topic in my teaching and research.

My objective is not to defend Cormier's strategy but hopefully add perspective. A particular communications skill is called intent-impact, simply that good communication takes place when the impact on the recipients is contestant with the intent of the speaker.

While his intent may have been to promulgate a learning strategy ("teachable moment"), I feel this particular time was too volatile for effective communication and unwittingly served to fuel the opposite. Perhaps his strategy added to this.

The topic of race is vital, and in many ways parallels gender issues. We need to strive collectively to live up to the founding creed of human equality.

There are different ways to create a rational debate strategy without fomenting disdain. This, sadly, is failure to communicate. Everyone loses.

Robert T. Russell


Russell is a professor emeritus at SUNY Delhi.

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