The Eracism movement grew out of the 1993 Times-Picayune series, "Together Apart/The Myth of Race," which prompted many letters and phone calls to the paper from the public. Many of these responses were filled with uncomprehending fear and hatred.
Too many for Rhoda Faust, a white woman in New Orleans. After reading one more ignorant response from a white woman that made her cringe, Rhoda Faust decided she had to take action. She wrote a letter to the editor condemning the "hateful and ignorant" comments.
But the letter did not stop there. It went on to suggest that more of the people who do care "start getting messages to each other that we’re all on the same side." Faust wanted to make it clear that these hate-filled responses were not speaking for her or for the majority of people she knew.
Faust’s letter touched a responsive chord in Brenda Thompson, a black woman, who wrote to Faust offering to help her create "some sort of symbol, signal, something to let the world know that all of us aren’t infected with hate and can find a way to work together."
The Eracism bumper sticker became that symbol. They also decided to start meeting at coffeehouses to have conversations and to get to know each other in informal settings.
From the grassroots efforts of two women, ERACE has distributed more than 140,000 bumper stickers and held more than 1000 facilitated discussion meetings about racial issues.
What Does Eracism Mean?
The Bumper Sticker Says It All
Eracism is the slogan of the group ERACE, which was formed in New Orleans in the summer of 1993. The goal of ERACE is to foster dialogue between people of all races and, ultimately, to erase racism.
You don’t have to be an Eracism member to sport the popular bumper sticker on your car. But the number of stickers on the streets is testimony to the overwhelming grassroots support that ERACE has received since it began.
Today there are thousands of Eracism participants in New Orleans and elsewhere helping to promote interaction and communication among people of all colors.
The bumper sticker campaign was ERACE’s first activity and its success shows people that they are not alone in caring about racism.
In heavy Friday-night traffic on Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans, Teresa, a white woman, was in the middle lane when her car suddenly stalled and died. With traffic swirling around her on both sides, she sat in fear, "an accident waiting to happen." Finally she decided she had to try to cross the road to get to a phone. But as she was getting out of her car an African-American man with a tow truck came from behind, blocked the outside lane of traffic, and pushed her car by hand to safety.
"Thank you very, very much," she said as the man approached, his job completed. "I can't tell you how grateful I am. Please tell me what I owe you?"
"You don't owe me anything," the man said. "Your bumper sticker says it all."
–A true story by Teresa Torkanowsky
If you drive around the streets of New Orleans for just a day, you will quickly become aware of the word "Eracism" on the bumpers of hundreds of cars around the city.