Two Online Webinars Promote Racial Understanding

As part of a statewide Healing Illinois project, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) together with Chicago Community Trust have enabled South-East Asia Center (SEAC) to share ideas and provide actionable steps that individuals and organizations may consider implementing to promote better racial understanding amongst diverse community groups.

In two one-hour online webinars aimed at challenging assumptions, offering cross-cultural insights, and explaining how we often unwittingly go wrong in our approach to  intercultural interactions, the center’s founder Peter Porr shares thought-provoking insights designed to discourage zero-sum thinking and instead encourage a deeper understanding of cultural relations that focus on our commonalities.

How Zero-Sum thinking leads to conflict in society and the classroom


Systemic Racial Injustice, The David Tom Story, What We Can Learn 

Peter Porr holds degrees in education (Michigan State University), sociology of education (New York University), as well as four years of doctoral politics of education (University of Chicago). He has trained teachers in Chicago and has taught in classrooms that range from a preschool in Harlem to a college in Viet Nam. As founding executive director of South-East Asia Center, Mr. Porr has served a multi-cultural clientele for some 40 years. Many of whom were historical arch-enemies in their native lands. He is currently an educational and administrative consultant to SEAC while working on a book that examines how education can contribute to world peace.

Mr. Porr had real-life cross-cultural conflicts in his own family that included strict Catholic maternal grandparents and strict Lutheran paternal grandparents who refused to attend his own parents’ wedding. As a German-American gentile growing up shortly after World War II in a predominantly Jewish New York suburb, Peter felt that he was the outsider and learning that being a minority, no matter the circumstances is an experience that imprints one’s soul forever – for better or worse.

After having been drafted and serving in the military Mr. Porr traveled overland from Europe returning to Viet Nam as a civilian to continue the teaching work he had begun, ultimately leaving Saigon together with 13 refugees on one of the last military transport flights before the historic rocket attack on the airport in April 1975. Safely back home he was instrumental in sponsoring his Vietnamese companions who settled permanently in the U.S.

Peter Porr and Ms. San O (one of the refugees escaping with Mr. Porr) spent 31 years caring for David Tom, a Chinese immigrant who had been incarcerated as a young man in State mental hospitals for over 30 years. Mr. Tom had no one to speak with and had never been diagnosed in his own Cantonese and Toishanese languages. Eventually this trauma resulted in a permanent psychosis and brain damage.