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Think. Discuss. Act. Racism

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Review: All In The Family

B.A. Lacy. (1995, May 25). “All in the Family.”¬†News and Observer, pp. E1, E7.


(Download All in the Family overview as a PDF)

The Alston family gathered at Cherry Hill Plantation in Warren County, North Carolina, the plantation where their relatives lived. This reunion brought together many estranged relatives, many of whom have never even met; the Alstons’ reunion included both white relatives of the slave holding plantation owner and black descendants of the slaves who became Alstons while working on the plantation. The two sides gathered “…to find out if they had more in common than a last name…they came to put aside race and start a dialogue about the human condition and human frailties” (p. E1).

The idea came from Macky Alston, a New York documentary film maker from North Carolina. He had always wondered about the number of black and white Alstons with whom he attended school, thinking that they were somehow related. His mother read an article about Fred Alston, a New York bassoonist, and shared it with Macky, who contacted him. They found that their roots both went back to Cherry Hill, and began to spend time getting to know each other: “‘How do we talk again?’ Macky Alston asked. ‘What has to happen to this resentment? How do you use shame in a productive way? Is this an appropriate conversation? If we don’t have this conversation, we’re going to kill each other'” (p. E7).

Fred Alston sees this gathering as “how you change people’s hearts. With tenderness, kindness, and radical compassion. The compassion of Jesus, Ghandi, and King” (p. E7).

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. This article brings racism closer to home. Do you have a dual racial heritage as well? How would you feel if you were Macky Alston? Fred Alston?
  2. What if everyone treated each other as family? How would your view of different races change?
  3. The writer is quoted as saying, “they came to put aside race and start a dialogue.” Can race and racism be put aside? Or must they be dealt with first?
  4. Depending on your background, you may have to deal with either resentment or shame (or possibly both) in reference to racism in America. Reread Macky’s string of questions above-how do you answer these each day, by the way you live your life?

Amy Allison Moreau
© 2018 CYS




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