Chicago minister addresses racism

By Mark Gates

Without a packed auditorium, body guards or $4 admission fee, a black pastor from Chicago talked about racism Monday night to a crowd of 70 in the Holmes Student Center.

Raleigh Washington, president of Chicago’s Circle Urban Ministry and pastor of Rock of Our Salvation Church, said part of the solution to relieving racial tensions on campus is for whites to initiate relationships with blacks.

While this is not always easy, whites need to be willing to make the first move and risk rejection, Washington said. “Racism is here to stay, but we can rise above it,” he said.

Washington said he does not focus his attention on white racists, but rather on the whites who have befriended and helped him. He said he owes his success in life to not being bitter against whites.

Washington said he used the teachings of the Bible to overcome bitterness in his life that might have resulted from bigoted treatment by whites.

For example, as a army colonel, Washington said he was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman he had previously fired as his secretary. He said the charges were false and brought against him because he is black and had fired 11 white officers.

Eventually Washington was forced to resign one day short of the Amy’s 20 year retirement requirements. During the hearings, Washington said he refused to lie and say he attacked the woman. Relating it bibically, “I told the truth and the Army set me free,” he said.

Washington said he had no strong feelings of bitterness because he believed God had a plan for his life. He had decided to live the scriptures and bless those that cursed him and to turn his other cheek.

Washington said he was born and raised in the housing projects of Jacksonville, Fla., when they were “a good place to be,” he said. He said his only memories of racial tension as a child came from his mother, who “almost had a heart attack” when she caught him “playing house with a white girl.”

However, Washington was older when he said he felt the discrimination of being unable to drink from ‘white’ water fountains in downtown Jacksonville and stopping at a gas station where he was told there was no bathroom, at least for him.

After attending an all-black university in Tallahassee, Washington said he had his first good and bad encounters with whites in the Army.

After being discharged, Washington went to Trinity Seminary, which had 12,000 students, three of whom were black. From Trinity, he went to the Circle Urban Ministry.

Before Washington’s lecture, about 40 members of the NIU Black Choir sang three songs, including “You’re my Brother, You’re my Sister,” which Washington taught them.