The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, in conjunction with WUSA-TV (Channel 9), plans to launch a yearlong campaign to promote cultural, racial, religious and ethnic tolerance throughout the metropolitan area.
The campaign, called "A World of Difference," is designed to "create a climate of respect and appreciation for diversity, to recognize and celebrate our differences, and to bring home the message that there is no place for bigotry in our community," according to the Anti-Defamation League.
David Freidman, Washington director of the league, said, "No one group can fight prejudice alone . . . . No other group can be secure when other groups are vunerable. Our power is in partnership."
The project incorporates television programming and educational study guides.
WUSA-TV launched the first in a series of programs yesterday with the airing of "What's the Problem?" and will continue to integrate the theme of "A World of Difference" in prime-time specials, news coverage, editorials, children's programming and daily public service announcements during the next 12 months.
"We have a document in this country that states that 'all men are created equal,' but often our behavior has a long way to go to live up to that standard," Hank Yaggi, WUSA-TV general manager, said this week as the project was announced. "Our goal is to celebrate differences, not make them barriers."
Also on hand for the announcement were Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon, D.C. Council Chairman John A. Wilson (D) and Carmen E. Turner, the undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
The mayor expressed sadness that in 1991 people still must confront racism and intolerance. "Prejudice is simply irrational," she said.
Turner said the various groups of this community face a challenge: to coexist and remain small, separate entities or to enjoy the benefits of many cultures interacting.
"A World of Difference" also will provide teacher training on multicultural issues as well as a study guide that will include readings and lesson plans on prejudice, stereotyping and diversity in the Washington area. Program coordinators said they hope the guide and training will reach 10 percent of teachers in the area.
The general target audience is high school students, and teacher participation is on a volunteer basis.
Participating school systems include Alexandria, the Archdiocese of Washington, the District, and Anne Arundel, Arlington, Fairfax, Frederick, Howard, Prince George's and Prince William counties.
"Our system is extremely excited about the focus of the program," said Bonnie Jenkins, director of public affairs for the Prince George's schools. "The content is so meaningful. It not only promotes cultural, religious and ethnic tolerance but also encourages thoughtfulness and caring; the earlier you can teach those values to children, the better."
Teacher training in the Washington area began Jan. 22. It not only incorporates the examination of case studies dealing with racism, but also challenges teachers to come to some sense of their own attitudes and biases, Freidman said.
He said one of the issues that will be addressed is the debate over use of the term "black" vs. "African American."
"We will address the attitudes of many who are black, but not of African descent, toward the term," he said.
The program is trying to equip teachers to deal with these issues not only in specific lessons but whenever classroom problems arise, Freidman said. "Many of the issues affecting young people have been addressed -- AIDS, drugs -- but tolerance and diversity are new areas that school systems must address," he said.
Margie Daniels, program coordinator for Baltimore's "A World of Difference," said, "The response from teachers has for the most part been overwhelmingly positive . . . . A lot of the schools are just getting started on incorporating multicultural issues into their curriculums, and they are desperate for materials. Intolerance is not an easy issue to deal with. We hope that our materials and workshops make it somewhat easier."
Inaugurated in 1985 in Boston, the program was intended to have a long-term effect on a city torn apart over the integration of its schools. Such programs now exist in 19 other cities, including Detroit and Chicago.
There are plans to expand "A World of Difference," but because smaller television markets cannot lend the vast air time needed, Freidman said, an independent educational program must be created.
The Anti-Defamation League says that by 2000, minority groups will account for more than half the population in 50 cities nationwide. " 'A World of Difference' is a vehicle for promoting understanding among these different groups and for equipping our children to challenge prejudice and champion pluralism," according to the league.
Freidman added, "We cannot afford to have another generation of children brought up with hate in their hearts; it is just unacceptable."