Discussions about race in America are at an all-time high. If you look on television or scroll through your Facebook newsfeed there is a continued conversation on race relations in this country. Thousands of opinion pieces have come out in the wake of the most recent Presidential election and hundreds of television specials are dedicated to the subject of race in America and abroad. Recently, The Daily Show invited a controversial guest to speak about race and politics on their show. Social media timelines exploded when Trevor Noah of the Daily Show brought Tomi Lahren, a conservative political commentator, to his segment of the show. Some people criticized Noah for giving Lahren a platform to speak her opinion and others praised him for bringing both opinions into the same room.
When groups talk about race or other sensitive topics it is most often with others who have a similar perspective. There are not many public spaces where a conversation with the “far-left” and the “far-right” are brought together. The thought of doing so infuriates many people. Emotions are so high that even when these two groups are brought together the conversation often goes nowhere.
So how do we reach a common ground? What are ways that we can have productive conversations that allow for both parties to be heard and possibly come to some form of understanding on some parts as individuals and within the community?
Having a guided conversation that leads with the intention of finding out why people think the way they do is important. When differing opinions are brought up it is easy to dismiss them and begin talking about why they are wrong or why you are right. This leads to a debate where both parties are desperately trying to get the other side to understand and many times it does not happen. If we shift the conversation and focus on learning the background of how people arrived at their conclusions then there will be a greater possibility of creating mutual understanding and moving forward even if only a little bit.
People should be allowed to draw the curtain back and explain why they are passionate about a certain topic or why they believe what they do. In order to move in a positive direction we must be open to hearing those opinions that may not be the same as our own. It does no good to talk about an issue as important as race with only others that agree with you. There must be a desire to include other perspectives. There must be a desire to truly listen to the other points of view. Although negative emotions to arise, we must stay focused on the goal and listen to understand so that we can begin to unpack all the views that make the mosaic that is the US and eventually come together to move our country forward.