The University Record, January 30, 1996

'Racism runs in the bloodstream of life,' Johnson says

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Speaking to a relatively small audience of University development staff assembled in the Business School's Hale Auditorium, Arthur Johnson left no doubt that racism continues to exist in numerous aspects of American society.

Subjected to cruelties, brutalities, insults and injustices in what he termed a caste system that still exists, Johnson said both Blacks and whites carry scars---scars that they carry in different ways, scars that are the reality of racism.

"Racism runs in the bloodstream of American life," Johnson said, noting that the injustices he experienced "shaped who I am and from where I am coming."

Johnson, a former president of the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP and former vice president for university relations at Wayne State University, included references to the Simpson trial, the Los Angeles Police Department, recent incidents in Philadelphia, the decrease in Black enrollment in universities and colleges, the excessive scrutiny of elected Black officials, the subtleties of racism seen in changing terms such as "busing" to "forced busing" and the undermining of affirmative action programs to illustrate his belief that these "racial facts of life will not help end racism in America."

Martin Luther King's dream, Johnson said, was based on moral values and belief in God. Citing what he considers five of the most vital "signposts on the pathway to greatness" that stem from King's legacy, Johnson listed using education to be well prepared for whatever endeavor is chosen; doing more than is required to "get by;" setting goals that will challenge us to be better than we are --- to be what we can be; asking for tasks that are larger than ourselves; and knowing that love is the greatest force in life.

Though some progress has been made, Johnson said he is not as optimistic today as he was 30 years ago about bringing the races in the country closer together.