Racism may be easy to spot in overt forms, but the subtle versions are the most troublesome. That's the challenge for Jonathan Zur, president and chief executive of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, which promotes diversity.
“It might be a statement or a gesture that the offended person doesn't know if it was intentional,” Zur says. “But it can really split work colleagues.”
His 74-year-old group, formerly known as the National Conference of Christians and Jews, works throughout the state holding retreats, discussions and other programs to help people “value and respect diversity,” he says. Zur has led the group through a rebranding and helped increase statewide programs by 150 percent to reach an average of 7,500 people each year.
In Richmond, his workers reach out to public and private schoolchildren to help them be sensitive to racial and religious differences. Sometimes, he says, the training results in fewer fights or disturbances in and out of class.
Zur, who says he grew up “in the middle of nowhere in New Jersey,” was attracted to the University of Richmond's Jepson School of Leadership Studies, where he earned a degree in 2003. He managed grants helping ease racial tensions against Muslims and others after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and worked for two years in his home state.
Zur says he was glad to get back to Richmond to start with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. There, his nominators say, he became the organization's youngest president. Zur also serves on the board of the National Federation for Just Communities and volunteers with the American Conference on Diversity, the First Freedom Center and the Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth.