The Catholic Commentator  

At the impressionable age of seven Maxine Crump looked up into her father’s eyes and asked, “Why don’t white people speak to black people?”  

His answer would become a seminal moment in Crump’s life. Crump said her father told her all Americans have certain rights and went on to say the Constitution does not support what some then believed was a white superiority.  

Crump, quite astute for someone that young, then asked, “So I’m an American?” 

“And he said yes,” Crump remembers with a broad smile. “That was pretty heady stuff for a seven-year-old.”  

That brief but piquant moment continues to be the pharos guiding Crump’s life more than six decades later. She said her life has been framed through the prism of understanding she was an American but paradoxically witnessing Americans who looked like her own African-American family having to fight for America to recognize them as “full participants as everything American.”  

Crump’s vision has bridged her youth, college and professional years, even her time as a Baton Rouge broadcaster. She broke the ceiling in many areas, including the first American-American woman staying on the LSU campus and the first in the news industry in Baton Rouge.  

As her career blossomed she noticed that once she was inside what she termed the “American culture” she was being asked to assimilate to that culture.  

She left the media in 1990 and used her own professional experience to develop what has become a powerful Dialogue on Race series that was originally presented at the YWCA in Baton Rouge but has since expanded into north Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  

“We believe we can end institutional racism,” Crump said with no hesitancy. “I absolutely believe it. You will find if we properly talk about it we will see that we can end it.  

“We built this racial structure in this country and anything that is built can be dismantled.” 

Crump describes the series as an educational process focused on race.  

“We have created a way of talking about it that is structured and backed by factual material,” she said. “All of that is to design a process of talking about it that creates a safe environment for open, honest conversation, brave conversation.”  

Crump explained that each series consists of six, two-hour sessions, facilitated by two trained presenters, with the first session including an orientation on the series and what participants can expect. Each series is limited to 15 people because research has shown that people are comfortable sharing their thoughts in a group that size.  

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Crump said definition of key terms, which comes immediately following the orientation, establishes the foundation for the remainder of the series. She said that she does not expect participants to accept definitions in the way they are presented but allows those individuals who disagree to use their own as long as the presenters are aware of their intent.  

One of the myths Dialogue on Race attempts to debunk is equating racial prejudice with racism. She said racial prejudice came about because of a race structure of grouping people by the way they look and ranking them from superior to inferior.  

Crump said racial prejudice was born of that structure but was quick to point out that if someone is prejudiced that does not necessarily mean that person is racist.  

She defined racism as an institutional structure where institutions were given the power to limit or offer full or limited access based on color in that racial hierarchy. Although illegal, Crump said it still operates in the 21st century. 

She said the series also explores the difficult belief that people who say they don’t see color don’t see the problem.  

“They must see color if this is going to change,” she said. “Well-meaning people have never had to think this through. That’s why we had to do the Dialogue on Race.   

“If you are of color you will run into barriers every day, 24/7.”  

Crump said the series is open to anyone and currently two in process and another three being planned. She added her organization does not recruit but former participants are her greatest and most effective ambassadors. 

Private series can also be arranged for companies or organizations.  

“We never tell anyone to change anything, we never tell anyone they are wrong,” Crump said. “We don’t teach, we don’t preach, we give the facts and let people process that.”  

“We don’t play nice, we don’t try to get (the group) to bond,” she added. “We tell everybody to say whatever you want to say.”  

She said the goal of the series is to educate those participating and what they do with that new understanding is up to each individual.  

Crump is also preparing to roll out a new series called Race and Policing, coming on the heels of racial unrest that has gripped Baton Rouge since the summer of 2016. She said the series is currently broken down into three parts but may expend to four and has been developed with civil rights lawyers.  

Crump, a cradle Catholic who was raised attending Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Maringouin, said faith has played a significant role in the development of the series. For more information on the series, visit dialogueon
racelouisiana.org.