Like most of us, Akron resident Mary Deal, a self-proclaimed cynic (you will see why very soon), has been thinking a lot about race relations lately. How could we not, given the events — both national and local — of the past few weeks?

Deal has concluded that racism is “America’s brand new growth industry.”

Clearly referring to the ugly public confrontations between blacks and whites on Akron City Council, and the closed-door attempt at reconciliation that followed, she sent the following email:

Bob: After racism has been stoked by those who claim they’re not “racist,” a professional class of “moderators” offer their services to “bring together” all the discordant parties.

The “brought togethers” sit around a table where each speaks moderately to the others. They share their stories. They emote. They are confined until all reach an accord reminiscent of “the era of good feeling.” Group dynamics prevail. All leave as “a team.”

There’s only one problem with this halcyon result: We’ve been doing this since the late ’60’s or early ’70’s — “encounter groups,” anyone? — with the same dismal outcome.

The professional “soothers,” distantly related to soothsayers, do their exhortations, incantations, etc., but the “problem” never seems to go away. Too many people profit from the disorder.

Consider how the Akron Community Foundation has caught the fever. In cahoots with the library system, both are sponsoring an event called, “On the Table. Greater Akron. Your Voice Matters,” on Oct. 3. By attending, adults grant permission to be videotaped and photographed, doubtlessly by the ACF for future video distribution.

Didn’t the BJ “solve” the problem of racism years ago when it received a Pulitzer [in 1994]?

Just like the weather, “racism” has become something everybody talks about but can’t do a thing about. Except to make a profit and promote themselves.

I told her I thought she was an even bigger cynic than her favorite columnist, and asked for permission to quote her.

Sure. But also look up and quote Booker T. Washington on the race hustlers of his day.

Everything old is new again. And there’s always the quote attributed to Einstein about doing things the same way while expecting different results. …

Last November we had a provincial from Queens against a Methodist Sunday-schooler from Park Ridge, Ill. Oy vey! What a mess! The fewer “encounter groups” we encounter the better off we may be, eventually.

Born a cynic and sarcastic. It’s in the genes.

Dostoevsky on sarcasm: “Sarcasm is the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

The legendary Booker T. Washington, an author whom today we would label “African-American,” did indeed rail against race hustlers — more than a century ago.

“There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public,” he wrote in 1911.

“Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”

To me, that sounds a lot more like the Al Sharptons of the world than the local folks who are genuinely trying to close the enormous racial gap.

More than 5,000 people have signed up for that “On the Table” day, and plenty of the conversations will undoubtedly involve race. That tells us folks remain hopeful.

Are we going to fix the race problem by endlessly talking about it? Not likely. As Ms. Deal notes, we’ve been trying that for half a century.

On the other hand … what’s the alternative?

Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or bdyer@thebeaconjournal.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31.