As people experience racial and ethnic tension, or perceive that the commitment to equity and positive intergroup relations is not complete, they need to have opportunities to learn how to deal with these problems. Given the differences in living conditions of various racial and ethnic groups, as well as the existence of discrimination throughout our society, improving intergroup relations is a challenge that requires ongoing work.
In many settings, improved intergroup relations are the responsibility of a given officer or instructor, and the most common strategy is the episodic workshop or the “introductory” course—short or long.
Moreover, whites have varying cultures and identities.
Raising awareness of this reality may serve to increase the sophistication of the lesson being taught and learned.
There are good reasons to start teaching the importance of and strategies for positive intergroup relations when children are young. As children mature, they become more conscious of racial and ethnic differences, and the many sources of prejudice and discrimination they experience can influence them in negative ways.
Lessons learned at an early age or at the time a person becomes a member of an organization may not stick even though they do make later lessons related to prejudice and discrimination easier to teach and learn.People with power and authority send messages more by their deeds than by their words.Those who are asked to engage in learning activities meant to improve intergroup relations will usually want to know what those who have put them into the situation have done and are doing about the lessons they are being asked to learn.Second, prejudice and discrimination are socially influenced.Thus, altering our own behavior may require that we enlist the support of others.First, the level of commitment to the goal will vary within the school, program, or organization.Second, the expertise needed to adequately integrate experiences that promote positive intergroup relations is scarce.The conventional wisdom among advocates of strategies to improve intergroup relations is that opportunities to learn should be infused throughout the curriculum or the tasks that make up the work of the organization involved.However, while this practice is Jesirable, it is difficult to achieve for at least two reasons.The best-documented strategy for improving racial and ethnic relations involves the creation of opportunities for positive equalstatus interaction among people from different groups.These strategies are most effective when they organize cooperative activities so as to ensure that people from different backgrounds can contribute equally to the task involved.