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Published April 27 2012

Taking a stand against racism

FARGO - Cassidy Rabchenuk and her fellow Ben Franklin Middle School students said it loud and clear this morning: It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white.

“Color doesn’t matter, we’re equal,” said Rabchenuk, a sixth-grader. “Everyone’s pretty much the same except for looks, and looks shouldn’t matter at all. Black or white, we should all be friends.”

She and all 700-plus of her classmates lined up around the school Friday morning and held hands in a show of solidarity against racism and prejudice.

The school was one of about 100 organizations around town Friday that participated in Stand Against Racism, a YWCA event aimed at bringing together people from all walks of life to promote tolerance and diversity.

Nationally, more than 70 YWCAs participated. Other local events included discussions about stereotypes, seminars on prejudice and other educational sessions.

At Ben Franklin, sixth-grade teacher Leslie Beadle organized the proceedings. Beadle’s language arts students read “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” a novel about black Depression-era sharecroppers that deals heavily with racial strife.

The book portrays a different type of racism than today’s students are likely to encounter, but “we got to take it from there to, ‘What is it like today? Do we still see some of those attitudes?’ ” Beadle asked.

She decided to get the rest of the school involved. Students came up with three words related to racism – a takeoff on Good Morning America’s “Three Little Words” segment.

Examples included “unjustified, judgmental, wrong” and “racism destroys lives.” Students made posters of their words, and the school made a video.

“They really got excited that we can do something here at Ben Franklin,” Beadle said of her students. Her class held a cultural feast Friday, with students bringing foods from their cultural background.

She said it’s an important time to discuss race and tolerance as Fargo-Moorhead becomes more diverse.

“This is a really big opportunity, because we do have a growing community with growing diversity,” she said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502