Diversity Training Planned for Olympic Trial Volunteers

AP, November 8, 2007

Earlier this year, black high school students from Portland’s Roosevelt High School were subjected to racial slurs at a boy’s basketball tournament in Eugene.

The Blacks on Track Team committee hopes to lessen the chances of that or a much lesser offense from happening at the 2008 Olympic Trials to be held in Eugene next summer.

The goal of the 23-member panel is to make sure that hundreds of black athletes and their families feel at home when they visit a city with a black population of less than 2 percent.

The committee is charged with educating the 1,800 volunteers expected to help at the Trials about the need for cultural sensitivity. All volunteers will get some level of diversity training, along with instruction in customer service, The Register-Guard newspaper reported. Several hundred hospitality workers at area hotels, restaurants and retail stores also will be invited to receive the training.

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How the Blacks on Track Team got started is not entirely clear. When local representatives pitched Eugene to be the host, USA Track & Field officials expressed concern about Eugene’s racial demographics and whether athletes would feel welcome, said Angel Jones, Eugene city manager pro tem and a member of the committee that lobbied for Eugene’s selection.

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The exact nature of the diversity training is still being worked out. But examples could include alerting visiting athletes to the kinds of restaurant foods, hair care salons or religious services that they might be accustomed to frequenting.

Another element of the training, Jones said, will be about not assuming that every unfamiliar black person in Eugene must be an athlete or supporter.

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The training will likely be similar to what many corporations provide, said Betty Snowden, a Eugene real estate broker and committee member. Volunteers, for example, might be reminded that certain greetings might be appropriate in some instances between two black people, but less so if made by a white person to a black person.

Snowden said she also has concerns about black people being shadowed by clerks when they visit retail stores.

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The Blacks on Track Team has already met with Eugene police to discuss plans for a four-day diversity training that, among other topics, will address how to guard against racial profiling, Fincher said.

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