LEWISTON — When it comes to prejudice, everyone is biased, everyone has work to do — and what we learn from birth to age 5 is powerful, Dr. Eddie Moore Jr. told Lewiston High School Civil Rights Team students Wednesday.

Moore, a national diversity speaker, is spending two days in Lewiston talking about how eliminating prejudice is tough work because its roots are deep.

He asked the students to think about people’s reactions in daily events, including how traffic changes people’s behavior.

What are things good people do in traffic they would not normally do? he asked.

Swear. Yell. Cut people off, the students answered.

The country’s power structure also encourages good people to ignore racial, income and gender gaps, Moore said.

“When most people look at progress in America, they look at it from oppressed groups’ points of view,” he said. Blacks and women have come a long way, he said.

“When I look at progress, I look at the power structure,” he said. “What did the power structure look like in 1789?”

Audience members answered that those in power were white, male and from Christian religions. They were not disabled or gay.

“What does the power structure look like today? Is it different?”

No, the audience replied.

Institutions designed under the structure included government, prison systems, banking and education.

“We’ve had a nation shaped and influenced by this model,” Moore said. “How can you assure me that you’re not reproducing this model today? I’m just asking you to think about that.”

Like the traffic metaphor, if not understood, the power structure “will change your behavior,” he said. “Who you are will not be you. Who you are will be as they are.”

He showed famous paintings by Norman Rockwell, “who was hired by the U.S. government to paint the all-American life.” There were no blacks or other minorities in the paintings.

Digesting Rockwell’s paintings could lead many to think that’s how the country should look.

“We’ve got to make sure you’re not setting your picture up in a narrow way,” Moore said.

He showed a powerful video illustrating how good people “will do something messed up.”

In the video, actors pretended they were stealing a bicycle in a park. When a young white man tried to cut through a lock, people walking by stared. Some asked questions. But no one called the police.

When a white woman tried to break through a lock, she got help.

When a young black man tried to break through the lock, people swarmed around him and got angry. They told him to stop. They took pictures saying, “I got you,” and called the police.

“They didn’t hire the Klan to walk through the park that day,” Moore said. “These are good people. You won’t do anything differently if you don’t do work to do something differently. Being a nice person is not enough.”

Part of the work is understanding how privilege and leadership works, he said.

“Research shows when resumes are sent out with the same qualifications but different names — black names and white names — the white names get received better,” he said.

In this century, it’s not the most racist people who slow equality, he said.

“It’s good people with good hearts who say nothing,” Moore said. “The best friend hate has is silence.”

But even in the darkest times, “there are always people fighting back,” he said. “You need to know what you’re going against.”

The world is changing, becoming more global, he said. People used to live in segregation and were rarely exposed to those who were different.

“There are things you can’t say today that you could 25 years ago,” he said. “There are real consequences (to) not knowing basic diversity stuff.”

Lewiston High School is far less white than it used to be. Minorities make up more than 25 percent of the student population.

“Whoever thought coming to Lewiston High School would be like a global map?” Moore said. “It’s a great example of how the world is changing.”

After taking a few questions, Moore said he was influenced in many ways to become whom he is. One inspiration was his mother.

Growing up in Florida, his mother often frustrated him.

“When people did racist things toward her, I thought she was too soft,” he said. “I was Baby Malcolm. I said, ‘You shouldn’t be taking that!'”

His mother always was a role model for love, he said. Eventually, he came to understand and embrace that.

“I always try to keep the foundation love,” Moore said. “I learned that from my mom.”

“The best friend hate has is silence.” — Dr. Eddie Moore Jr.

Public invited to two talks about race today, tonight

LEWISTON — The public is invited to a presentation: “America is Changing: Are You Ready?” about racial bias, social justice, privilege and leadership at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, at the Lewiston Public Library.

The public is also invited to an afternoon presentation at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Both talks will be given by Dr. Eddie Moore Jr., the founder and program director for the White Privilege Conference. Moore speaks nationally on diversity, education, cultural competency and white privilege.

Moore’s lectures are designed to challenge participants to examine their own biases, behaviors and belief systems and to provide skills for taking action against hatred, bigotry and oppression.

The free public sessions are presented by Race and Culture L/A, a collaboration of the Lewiston Public Library, the USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College, the YWCA of Central Maine and Bates College’s Harward Center.

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