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The Dartmouth
February 22, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Shipler '64 speaks about black/white issues in U.S.

Dartmouth Trustee David Shipler '64, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist, said he feels the "black/white encounter is the most vexing issue in this country," during a speech delivered to about 75 people in Loew Auditorium yesterday afternoon about race in America.

Shipler said his research of race is "limited to black/white issues" so the issue of race for him "is very sharply focused."

Shipler spoke about three "silences that prevail in America -- silences concerning race."

He said the first silence is one "that surrounds history."

Shipler said most people in the United States do not seem to see the power of history has in shaping events and its significance to the present. When he studied in the Middle East, he said he noticed Arabs and Jews were more "caught up in history."

But he said when he interviewed black Americans, they feel the "reverberations of history" more than whites do.

Stereotypes are still prevalent in the U.S., Shipler said, and they can be seen in polls and questionnaires.

He said in a recent poll by the University of Chicago, 56 percent of respondents of all races believed blacks were more violent than whites, 62 percent believed blacks are lazier than whites and 78 percent believed "blacks are more inclined than whites to prefer to live on welfare."

The second silence prevalent in American society is "the gulf of silence of decoding, recognizing and defining bigotry," Shipler said.

In his studies, Shipler said he found that while whites do not often think about race, blacks do every day.

He said often when African Americans face adverse situations they question whether race is involved.

But he said he thinks while some African Americans see racism everywhere, others do not see it in daily aspects of their lives.

Shipler said culture has defined racism as "so evil and such a dichotomy," but he believes "life is a spectrum, a process of learning how to deal with prejudices."

"Racism is a loaded term," Shipler said. "But there is no particular sin in admitting to ourselves that we have things to learn in dealing with other races."

Shipler described the third silence as a "gulf of silence of complicity" surrounding race issues.

He said the virtue of a diverse community is both moral and pragmatic and diversity is a way to overcome racism.

The speech was part of a Fall term International Office focus on Africa called "Africa in the Crossroads."

Shipler worked at the New York Times for two decades as chief of both the Moscow and Jerusalem bureaus.

Shipler recently completed a book, which is due out next year, on race in America and is the author of "Russia: Broken Idols, Solemn Dreams" and "Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land," which won the Pulitzer prize.