Equality and Equity in Deliberation: Introduction to the Special Issue

The 11-page article, Equality and Equity in Deliberation: Introduction to the Special Issue (2016), was written by Carolyne Abdullah, Christopher Karpowitz, and Chad Raphael, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. The authors make the distinction within deliberation between equity and equality, and confront what this means to fairness and participants being able to fully engage in deliberation. The article examines different approaches to inclusion within deliberative theory and practice, as well as, the authors address some challenges and opportunities.

Read an excerpt of the article in full below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

Deliberative democrats have had much to say about equality and have long been concerned with creating conditions for it in discourse. Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, for example, write that the principle of political equality “stands behind” the demand for deliberation (1996, p. 28). That is, deliberation presupposes that people deserve equal respect and that in conditions of disagreement such respect demands the open exchange of views and the mutual attempt to identify fair and just solutions. Yet how is equal respect constructed in deliberation? For example, if pursuing equality means treating everyone similarly, regardless of what they bring to deliberation, there are longstanding concerns that this approach can reproduce and reinforce enduring hierarchies of income, education, race, gender, or other characteristics (Young 2000; Sanders 1997). These disparities have the potential to frustrate and even derail the attempt to create conditions in which all perspectives can be included and fully heard. At the same time, if attention to such inequalities means treating deliberators differently, then the worry is that such approaches may stigmatize disadvantaged voices or even provoke a backlash among the more powerful.

This special issue examines different approaches to the full inclusion, participation, and influence of all voices in deliberative theory and practice. In approaching this issue, we mark a key distinction between the values of equality and equity. By equality, we mean an approach to deliberative fairness that emphasizes the need to treat all deliberators the same, regardless of their power (or lack thereof) outside of the deliberative forum. This approach holds that deliberative fairness is most likely to be achieved when those background inequalities are put aside, bracketed, or neutralized in discussion. In contrast, equity means taking into account the advantages and disadvantages that have shaped participants’ experiences, which may require treating participants differently in order to create conditions that achieve fair deliberation and decisions. As Edana Beauvais and André Bächtiger (this issue) put it, equality asserts “the fundamental sameness of common humanity” and the need to “abstract from social circumstances,” while equity emphasizes “attending to” social circumstances and the resultant distribution of power and resources. The contributors to this issue take up this core distinction between equality and equity in a variety of different ways, and occasionally with slightly different terms, but all of them are confronting the common challenge of creating circumstances in which all deliberators can participate fully and even authoritatively.

Tensions between equality and equity emerge constantly in both formal institutions of political decision-making and the wider political culture. We see these struggles in debates over access to education, fair wages, health and welfare policy, policing, immigration, regulation of speech, and many other issues.

Should universities prioritize equal treatment of applicants by following a “colorblind” approach to admissions or remedy the accumulated effects of past disadvantages by practicing affirmative action? Should schools prioritize creating more supportive environments for students from non-dominant groups by regulating offensive speech directed at them or privilege equal rights to engage in robust, even uncivil, expression? Should countries give equal access to immigrants regardless of their geographic origins, economic status, and social condition, or privilege applicants from particular countries, the highly-skilled, political refugees, or others based on social and historic circumstances? When do assertions of equal rights function to dismiss aspirations for equity? For example, in the United States, when the Black Lives Matter movement for fair and equitable treatment of people of color by the police is met with the response that “All Lives Matter,” does invoking the language of equality make it more difficult to confront and address historic and systemic inequities?

Friction between equality and equity also emerges in each stage of public deliberation, confronting organizers with thorny decisions about the design of institutions and projects, naming and framing issues, recruiting community members, rules for participation and decision making, and implementing outcomes. At every point in the process, civic forums must address the question of whether public deliberation should be organized using an equality or equity approach, or how to balance the two. For example, if we issue a general call for participation through “neutral” channels, can we have much hope of attracting less privileged and empowered community members? In the absence of facilitation or institutional rules that actively promote contributions from non- dominant participants, and encourage thorough questioning of prevalent understandings of issues, are we likely to reproduce the power dynamics that helped create the very social problem under discussion? Alternatively, at what point does stocking the room with under-represented people fall prey to charges of stacking the deck in favor of particular outcomes, risking the perceived legitimacy of deliberation?

Equality and equity must also be considered as outcomes of public deliberation. The historically marginalized are often drawn to politics more by a hunger for more equitable policies than for opportunities to deliberate. How concerned should we be about whether the policies developed through deliberation are equal or equitable? Can we be assured that deliberation will deliver fairer outcomes than other kinds of political engagement? What steps, if any, should deliberative democrats take to compel attention to equity and equality as critical aspects of all policy decisions? These are the questions that have motived this special issue.

Download the article from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

About the Journal of Public Deliberation
Journal of Public DeliberationSpearheaded by the Deliberative Democracy Consortium in collaboration with the International Association of Public Participation, the principal objective of Journal of Public Deliberation (JPD) is to synthesize the research, opinion, projects, experiments and experiences of academics and practitioners in the emerging multi-disciplinary field and political movement called by some “deliberative democracy.” By doing this, we hope to help improve future research endeavors in this field and aid in the transformation of modern representative democracy into a more citizen friendly form.

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

Follow the International Association of Public Participation [US] on Twitter: @IAP2USA

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol12/iss2/art1/

Finding a Seat for Social Justice at the Table of Dialogue and Deliberation

The 4-page article, Finding a Seat for Social Justice at the Table of Dialogue and Deliberation (2014)was written by David Schoem and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 10: Iss. 1. In the article, Schoem discusses the relationships that many dialogue and deliberation organizations have toward social justice. Many D&D organizations have a tendency to shy away from social justice in an effort to maintain neutrality. Schoem puts forth three arguments that “the field needs to 1) work intentionally for social justice and serving the public good for a strong, diverse democracy, 2) confront the illusion of neutrality, and 3) address issues of privilege and power. ”

Read the article in full below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

First, most people, whatever language they choose to use, regardless of their political affiliation, perspective, or point of view, share a hope for a better society and believe in a more just world. To use the foundation of a just society or a better world as a common starting point allows for purposeful dialogue and is an invitation to a wide range of people, perspectives and viewpoints. Even the Pledge of Allegiance speaks of “liberty and justice for all,” so it’s surprising that those words are too often taken off the table in dialogue and deliberation organizations because they are seen as “too political.” To ignore social justice serves only to diminish the opportunity and promise that dialogue and deliberation have to offer.

Second, ignoring inequity and inequality predictably leads to the marginalization and exclusion of less privileged groups and those expressing unpopular opinions. Rather than opening the door to open discussion and dialogue by invoking a value of neutrality, when issues of social justice are left off the table it signals to people who are concerned with such issues that the conversation will support the status quo, that substantive change will not result, and that they are unwelcome at the table.

Third, declaring an approach of neutrality, without accounting for power and privilege, almost always privileges those in power. The invocation of unexamined neutrality ignores the power relations embedded in social issues, makes invisible the privilege and power of members of different social identities actually participating in any dialogue and deliberation, and serves to silence less privileged voices. To presume a priori an approach of neutrality mistakenly creates an unequal situation from the outset.

Fourth, efforts to convene substantive dialogue and deliberation without a social justice orientation typically end up as an exercise to give already privileged people more power. When the D&D community gathers people together for good discussions and conversations without any acknowledgement of or attention to issues of social justice, power or privilege, it simply creates space for a privileged group of people to gain an even larger voice and to reify existing inequalities. Admittedly, some in the D&D community who previously felt excluded have carved a niche for themselves and found a voice in public discourse through D&D, but too often when doing so without any social, racial, economic and/or other justice orientation, they have left even further behind those with even less privilege and power.

Fifth, issues of power and privilege are present in dialogue and deliberation whether or not people are ignorant of their presence or choose not to acknowledge them. The fact that people with more privilege are unaware of their power or may consciously choose to ignore it, does not mean that such dynamics are not present and salient in dialogue and deliberation.

Download the article from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

About the Journal of Public Deliberation
Journal of Public DeliberationSpearheaded by the Deliberative Democracy Consortium in collaboration with the International Association of Public Participation, the principal objective of Journal of Public Deliberation (JPD) is to synthesize the research, opinion, projects, experiments and experiences of academics and practitioners in the emerging multi-disciplinary field and political movement called by some “deliberative democracy.” By doing this, we hope to help improve future research endeavors in this field and aid in the transformation of modern representative democracy into a more citizen friendly form.

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

Follow the International Association of Public Participation [US] on Twitter: @IAP2USA

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol10/iss1/art20/

The Truth Telling Project

The Truth Telling Project is a grassroots, community-based truth telling process that is designed to share the stories of Black people in the US and their experiences with police violence; and to address the legacies of racism in the US against Black people. The Truth Telling Project arose after the murder of Michael Brown and the lack of indictment of the police officer in his murder. It is a collaborative effort between “the Peace and Justice Studies Association, The Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata College, The Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Sophia Project of St.Louis MO and the National Peace Academy”.

The Truth Telling Project developed the The Truth Telling Initiative for Ferguson and Beyond (FTI), to perform community-based hearings of Black peoples’ stories of police violence. The FTI started with an initial panel event Nov 13-14, 2015 in Ferguson, MO; and was recorded to be utilized in living room conversations around the nation. The Truth Telling Project provides support for holding living room conversations called FTI WeFi gatherings- “Watch [parties], Exchange [ideas], Formulate [a plan of action], and Implement [the plan]”; to hear and address the issues of systemic and structural racism against Black people.

To learn more about The Truth Telling Project and the FTI, check out their site here.

From the site…

The information below is excerpted from the Truth Telling Project’s Mandate, the whole document can be read on their site here

In light of the shooting death of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014 and the subsequent findings of the Grand Jury not to indict the officer who shot Mr. Brown, despite witness testimony that his hands were in the raised, “surrender” position, and

In light of the overwhelming number of incidents where unarmed black men, women and children have been assaulted, injured, or killed at the hands of police officers or while in police custody in Ferguson, and

In light of the proliferation of deaths of black men, women and children in the 21st century at the hands of police or while in police custody in the U.S. and

In light of the racist and oppressive nature of Slave Patrols, Fugitive Slave Laws, Jim Crow Laws, Racial Profiling and Stop and Frisk Practices having all served as historical and/or contemporary directives comprising four centuries of police practices violating the lives of black men, women and children in the U.S.:

The Truth Telling Project, on behalf of the citizens of Ferguson, MO calls for the conduct of the Truth Telling Initiative for Ferguson and Beyond (FTI) to allow national and international audiences to listen to first-hand accounts of persons impacted directly and indirectly by police violence in the city of Ferguson and beyond.

The FTI is not for the purpose of exacting revenge or recrimination; additionally, the Truth Telling Project does not endorse violence in any form. The Truth Telling Project supports truth sharing for the purposes of helping all members of society acknowledge the realities and consequences of violence, and work towards the collective healing needed to produce reconciliation.

The Panel charged with listening to testimonial stories will have no powers, but they will be tasked with inquiring and helping others learn how persons came to be directly or indirectly involved in instances of police violence, including harm and death while in police custody. As a necessary part of the truth seeking process, the Panel will also consider questions of individual and institutional responsibility surrounding the stories presented.

It is the firm belief of the Truth Telling Project that giving voice to the voiceless through the power of storytelling will humanize persons in a manner that no Commission report, visual representation or media interview can. Given the historical and perennial nature of violent assaults and deadly encounters between police and African Americans in the U.S., it is urgent that the national and international community be given an opportunity to hear personal accounts directly from those impacted; the FTI will provide this opportunity.

It is the position of the Truth Telling Project that addressing the legacy of structural and systemic racism and its consequences in the U.S. must begin with citizen actions to expose truths. We believe that promoting truth will increase mutual understanding and respect, and lay the foundation needed for healing the long-standing wounds and by-products of oppression in our nation.

There can be no genuine healing and moving forward without honestly, courageously and collectively involving the citizens of Ferguson, MO in confronting truths surrounding accounts of police violence and fully acknowledging the direct and indirect suffering associated with those experiences. Giving recognition to individual experiences and truths is the beginning of healing and the related processes of resolution; each is a necessary step if we are to move our society through, and then past the pain associated with the legacies of racism in the U.S.

“There comes a time in the life of every community when it must look humbly and seriously into its past in order to provide the best possible foundation for moving into a future based on healing and hope.” – The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 2006

Follow on Twitter: @TruthTellersUSA

Resource Link: http://thetruthtellingproject.org/

Transforming Historical Harms

The 96-page manual, Transforming Historical Harms by David Anderson Hooker and Amy Potter Czajkowski, was uploaded October 2013 on Coming to the Table‘s site. The manual gives a holistic framework to address historical injustices, in a way that engages all participants, and identifies the aftermath and legacies of [generational] trauma. This manual was developed by Coming to the Table and has been a collective effort of Eastern Mennonite University’s (EMU) Center for Justice & Peacebuilding (CJP) and their Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) program. From the STAR program, came the group Coming to the Table, which itself was launched in 2006 when a group of EMU participants gathered to address the historical trauma between descendants of enslaved African-Americans and enslaver European-Americans.

The framework is given through the lens of trauma and provides a holistic approach to transform traumas from historical injustices for healing to occur. In order to be possible, all participants affected must be included and address all the following aspects: “Facing History; Making Connections; Healing Wounds; and Taking Action”.

The manual provides five sections and an appendix:
Section I: Overview, context and using the manual
Section II: The THH Framework
Section III: Practices of the THH Approach
Section IV: Analysis and Process Design
Section V: Tools and Resources for Practicing the THH Approach

Below is an excerpt from the manual, you can find the it in full on Coming to the Table’s site here.

From the manual…

The THH Framework
The Transforming Historical Harms (THH) manual articulates a Framework for addressing the historical harms mentioned above as well as the many others present in societies around the world. The framework looks at historical injustices and their present manifestations through the lens of trauma and identifies the mechanisms for the transmission of historical trauma: legacies and aftermaths. These are the beliefs and structures responsible for transmitting trauma responses and traumagenic circumstances between generations. The framework then offers a comprehensive approach to transforming historical harms through Facing History; Making Connections; Healing Wounds; and Taking Action. Transforming historical harms must occur through the practice of all these dimensions. The order in which they are engaged can be different, but none can be omitted. This approach will be the primary focus of the manual. Finally, the framework includes the levels at which healing needs to occur, which range from the individual to the international level. For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to analysis and interventions at the individual and group levels.

The framework we offer in this manual is unique in several ways. The four part THH Approach is holistic because each dimension is interconnected with the others and the approach only works when all the dimensions are present. The framework introduces specific understandings of the concepts of legacy and aftermath, and transformation is considered incomplete unless both beliefs and structures have been addressed that have been responsible for perpetuating historical trauma and harms. The THH framework includes all groups that have participated in and have been touched by the historical trauma and harms rather than focusing exclusively on the group or groups that have been named the “victims.” There is clear and ample evidence that in the context of massive and historical trauma, those who were victimized, those who perpetrated, those who were bystanders AND the descendants of each group are all effected. It is our assumption that participation and healing is required at some point for all groups in order for the approach to be effective. Not only is it requisite for all groups to participate, but for consideration to be made for the unique manifestations of trauma across generations for each group and for healing interventions to occur at the individual and group levels.

How to use this manual:
The intention of this manual is to provide value to those trying to address the personal, familial, communal and/or societal remnants of traumagenic historical experiences that continue to hurt or limit the lives of individuals, groups, societies and nations. The pain or limitation could result from overt violence such as enslavement, war, colonialism or genocide, or more subtle forms of violence like discrimination, poverty and personal or societal exclusion.

Objectives: Those using this manual will:
1. Learn how historical harms, which are current challenges in our lives and communities, are rooted in large-scale historical traumas.
2. Identify how Legacy and Aftermath describe the transmission of historical trauma and harms.
3. Apply the Transforming Historical Harms Approach that includes:
a. Exploring approaches to facing history that help identify ways to move forward;
b. Learning how making connections — building relationships across historical divisions — can create partnerships capable of working towards effective change;
c. Identifying the importance of creating spaces and methods that welcome and support healing wounds (mind, body and spirit) from truama both individually and collectively; and
d. Taking action to address beliefs, behaviors and structures responsible for ongoing harms.
4. Explore historical trauma and harms in specific contexts, and learn about strategies for using the THH approach in these situations.

Above is an excerpt of the manual. We recommend looking at the manual in full, which can be found here.

About Coming to the Table
Coming to the Table provides leadership, resources, and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery. Our vision for the United States is of a just and truthful society that acknowledges and seeks to heal from the racial wounds of the past—from slavery and the many forms of racism it spawned.

Follow on Twitter: @ComingToTable

About EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding
The Center for Justice & Peacebuilding educates a global community of peacebuilders through the integration of practice, theory and research. Our combined vision is to prepare, transform, and sustain leaders to create a just and peaceful world.

Follow on Twitter: @CJP_EMU

Resource Link: http://comingtothetable.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/01-Transforming_Historical_Harms.pdf

Re-imagining and Restoring Justice: Toward a Truth and Reconciliation Process to Address Violence Against African-Americans in the US

The webinar, Re-imagining and Restoring Justice: Toward a Truth and Reconciliation Process to Address Violence Against African-Americans in the US, was hosted by Carl Stauffer and speaker guest, Fania Davis, and occurred March 16, 2016 on Zehr Institute‘s site. In the hour and a half long webinar, Stauffer and Davis discuss the restorative-justice based, Truth and Reconciliation Movement. Davis begins with sharing her personal story and how her path led to restorative justice and the Truth and Reconciliation Movement. In this process, Davis explains, one asks the questions, “how can we tell the truth, promote accountability and transform social structures that are totally different?”. Like the restorative justice frame, participants come together to share their truths, listen to other perspectives, offer support to those affected, and work through the experiences in a way that heals trauma. Throughout the webinar, Stauffer and Davis talk about restorative justice processes around the world and how they shaped the Movement, current Truth and Reconciliation processes going on in the US and finally, the webinar is wrapped up with a Q&A.

You can find the full webinar below or on Zehr Institute’s site here.

From the Zehr Institute…

The recent wave of internationally publicized police killings in the U.S. has sparked a national race conversation and passionate outcry for justice. But the current justice system cannot deliver the justice we seek – it is itself a perpetrator of massive structural harm. Also, killings of unarmed black people are contemporary expressions of centuries of unhealed racial traumas reaching all the way back to the birth of our nation, morphing from slavery to sharecropping and lynching, from Jim Crow to convict leasing, and to mass incarceration and deadly police practices today. Prevailing justice lacks the capacity to redress racialized historical harm. Yet, until we as a nation interrupt intergenerationally-transmitted racial traumas, we are doomed to perpetually re-enact them.  If the justice system as we know it cannot adequately redress the long legacy of racial trauma in this country, can we imagine and engender a justice that can? A more capacious justice: one that promotes truth-telling, accountability, and reparations? Can we envision a justice that transforms relationships and social structures, grounding them in a mutual recognition of one another’s humanity?  A justice that allows us as a nation, racially-fractured for centuries, to heal and build a new future together?

This webinar explores the possibility of a restorative justice-based Truth and Reconciliation Movement as our best hope.

We need to think about justice in a completely different way. How do we envision and imagine justice that can interrupt the historical cycles of racial trauma? How do we transform this historical harms, so that the killings can stop? How do we view accountability? How do we hold system accountable?

Below is the full webinar and it can also be found on Zehr Institute’s site here.

About Dr. Fania Davis
She is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY). Coming of age in Birmingham, Alabama during the social ferment of the civil rights era, the murder of two close childhood friends in the 1963 Sunday School bombing crystallized within Fania a passionate commitment to social transformation. For the next decades, she was active in the civil rights, Black liberation, women’s, prisoners’, peace, anti-racial violence and anti-apartheid movements.

About Zehr Institute
The leaders of EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) announced the founding of the Zehr Institute at the end of the fall 2012 semester. The Zehr Institute spreads knowledge about restorative justice and is a resource to practitioners, while facilitating conversations and cultivating connections through activities like conferences and webinars. The institute is co-directed by Howard Zehr, distinguished professor of restorative justice, and Carl Stauffer, assistant professor of justice and development studies at CJP.

Resource Link: http://zehr-institute.org/webinar/re-imagining-and-restoring-justice-toward-a-truth-and-reconciliation-process-to-address-violence-against-african-americans-in-the-united-states/

Turning To Each Other

The article, Turning To Each Other, was written by Parisa Parsa and published July 2016 on Public Conversations Project blog. In the article, Parsa discusses the need to not be a neutral party within this society because it furthers the injustices of this world. Instead she offers the alternative of multi-partiality, to not remain neutral and both hold one’s own opinion while also being able to hold alternatives perspectives, even if they differ dramatically. The dialogue and deliberation field very often is a vehicle through which conflicting opinions converge, build relations, and create change. Parsa calls for communities to turn toward each other, no matter their perspectives, in order to grow and ultimately reach liberation.

Below is the full article and it can also be found on Public Conversations Project blog here.

From Public Conversations Project…

The violence, grief and acrimony of the last week has been brutal. In the midst of such public anger and heated rhetoric, I was reminded of another piece of sad news: the death of Holocaust survivor and man of brilliance Elie Wiesel. Of a lifetime of wisdom, no words of his have felt more urgent than these; I have clung to them for both courage and challenge:

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” ― Elie Wiesel

It seems like a forthright, straightforward–if bracing–statement. We have a duty, moral and relational, to stand with those who are suffering injustice. As an activist, I prided myself on living that commitment: to be on the side of what was right, to speak up for those who were being tormented.

Now I lead an organization that works to bring people with very different perspectives, beliefs, and backgrounds, into relationship. What we see in our work that community is not a given – it does not arise spontaneously due to our proximity in neighborhoods or workplaces. Community is a choice: an act of courage when fear and mistrust threaten to tear us asunder. Because of our commitment to being present with the many perspectives that reside around any issue that matters, we do not take a side on the issues. Yet we are not neutral. We make an active commitment to listen, to engage, to honor each person and perspective that arrives. Our practitioners call this being multi-partial – not im-partial, or lacking a side, but multi-partial: willing to hold each part, even though they may contradict each other.

This precarious balance requires careful preparation to make sure all those “parts” meet on ground that is as level as possible. Instead of asking “What do you want to say?” we ask, “What do you need in order to feel heard?” What do you need to do to prepare yourself to really listen to others? What agreements will help to secure a space for you to tell your truth, and to listen with resilience? These are not superficial questions – they live in the very heart of power differences, and invite reflections on the assumptions we make about each other that guide most of our communication.

What we find, over and over again, in our conversations is that it is rarely so simple as to say there is a single oppressor or oppressed. When we are able to really speak and listen from the depths and complexities of who we are, we find that we are all suffering from the human systems that keep us separate, fearful, misunderstood and misunderstanding. And we find that what takes real courage is the work of turning to one another, against all the tides that would tell us to pull back, to withdraw, to point fingers and build walls, and instead to ask: where are you hurting?

The gross atrocities of humanity don’t usually begin with hard lines of good and evil. They begin with people trying to make sense of the world from their place in it, limited in what they can know and see, acting to protect and promote the life of those they care about. This is true in this particular moment for men and women who are serving in law enforcement, and it is true for black and brown people who are advocating for a change in a society that has disproportionately imprisoned them. It is true for people who advocate fiercely for the right to bear arms, and it is true for those who are outraged at the lack of gun regulation. There are indeed systems and structures that have affected particular people disproportionately and yet those structures are not the ones whose bodies are sacrificed routinely on the altar of our misunderstanding. “We see the world not as it is but as we are,” wrote Anais Nin. I think it is safe to say we are all suffering.

Being told we are wrong rarely prompts a moment of awakening; instead, we retreat into the known, even though it may cause us greater pain. Finding a wider lens with which to view the world, situating ourselves in the midst of a bigger scene, helps us widen the circle of life we commit to promote and protect. Knowing our neighbor more fully makes connection more visible, and less optional. The more you see of that neighbor, the more you are truly seen. We don’t take a single side, because true liberation is a choice made from seeing the whole. That whole is painful, complicated, uncertain – and it is our great responsibility, no matter what our cause, to share our truth and let go of the belief that it is the only one. I’m not sure Wiesel would disagree, and it is my great loss that I never had the chance to ask him.

About Public Conversations ProjectPCP_logo
Public Conversations Project fosters constructive conversation where there is conflict driven by differences in identity, beliefs, and values. We work locally, nationally, and globally to provide dialogue facilitation, training, consultation, and coaching. We help groups reduce stereotyping and polarization while deepening trust and collaboration and strengthening communities.

Follow on Twitter: @pconversations

Resource Link: www.publicconversations.org/blog/turning-each-other

Our Differences Do Not Have To Become Our Divisions

The article, Our Differences Do Not Have To Become Our Divisions, was written by Jessica DeBruin and posted June 20, 2016 on Everyday Democracy‘s site. DeBruin wrote this article in memory of the 49 victims from the Orlando massacre at Pulse nightclub, an LGBTQIA club. In the article, DeBruin shares her experience as a queer person in the aftermath of the massacre and calls for the urgent need to improve the civic process by demanding the need to ensure the voices of marginalized folks are at the table in an authentic way. She gives explicit ideas on how to do this by listening to affected communities, ensuring the mic is shared, and directly challenging and interrupting violence [in all forms].

Below is an excerpt from the article and read it in full on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

From the article…

It may be near impossible for all of us, even allies, even queer folk, to comprehend how we have internalized and acted out these violences on a daily basis – but it is essential that we begin to do so. When good people witness hate speech and say nothing, we have participated in that hate. By failing to challenge hateful narratives we become complicit to them. When we cling to compartmentalized notions of identity, we erase the experiences of people who live at the intersection of multiple group identities.

We will slip up. We will do all these things on occasion because these concepts have been with us most of our lives. Our progress will be imperfect, but we must continue to push ourselves to do better.

Where do we begin this process?

We begin with acknowledgement. We must acknowledge that on some level, great or small, we have all internalized homophobia. We acknowledge that the gender roles which some of us find comfort in, do not necessarily apply to or benefit us all. We acknowledge that institutional racism and colorism hold us all back, and rob us of the opportunity to better connect with one another.

Next we hand the mic to affected communities.

We uplift and magnify the voices of the marginalized, those who have been on the receiving end of violence.

We listen.

We listen to them, we listen to each other. We cannot feign deafness to avoid inconvenience or discomfort. If you consider yourself an ally to the queer, or any marginalized community, it is past time that you recognize that yielding the mic is one of the most powerful things you can do to support us.

Of course even within these communities, there are myriad factions, and perspectives and experiences. This touches upon a fundamental need for the creation of civic culture where people from all walks of life can come together in respect to share our experiences, to hear other people’s lived realities, and to find a way to work together.

We must find a place where we can acknowledge and uplift these differences. We must recognize that our differences do not have to become our divisions. A democracy that is alive and thriving should facilitate this kind of communal meeting of minds. This is what American core values should be.

In 1970 the grassroots implementation of this kind of dialogue between radically different queer communities produced the first Pride Marches. In cities across the nation, LGBTQIA folk came together to stand and be counted. They took tragedy and oppression and turned it into a celebration of being.

We are faced with a similar opportunity to continue this difficult work today. May we not shy away from it. May we instead use it to fuel action and positive change. May we instead practice the democracy of earnest and inclusive civic dialogue, so that on the other side of it we can emerge stronger than the sum of hatred and indifference.

Read the article in full here.

About Jessica DeBruin
Jessica is a writer and actress living in Los Angeles, dedicated to creating feminist, queer-inclusive art and media.

Follow on Twitter: @JessicaLaVerdad

About Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy (formerly called the Study Circles Resource Center) is a project of The Paul J. Aicher Foundation, a private operating foundation dedicated to strengthening deliberative democracy and improving the quality of public life in the United States. Since our founding in 1989, we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across the United States on issues such as: racial equity, poverty reduction and economic development, education reform, early childhood development and building strong neighborhoods. We work with national, regional and state organizations in order to leverage our resources and to expand the reach and impact of civic engagement processes and tools.

Follow on Twitter: @EvDem

Resource Link: www.everyday-democracy.org/news/our-differences-do-not-have-become-our-divisions

Speed Meeting Activity for Community Addressing Racism

The three-page, Speed Meeting Activity for Community Addressing Racism, by Everyday Democracy was published October 2014 on ED’s site here. This activity is designed to address racial equity issues, and is especially helpful for those using the Facing Racism in a Diverse Nation discussion guide [by Everyday Democracy].

Participants are given a printout of a clock with four meeting times: at the 3:00, 6:00, 9:00, and 12:00. Each person finds a partner in the room to meet with during each of these times (4 meet ups total). Each time slot has a different question to explore with the partner “scheduled” at that time, and after all four meet ups, there is an overall group debrief at the end. Below is an excerpt from the activity and you can find the entire activity on Everyday Democracy’s site here.

ED_address racismFrom Everyday Democracy…

This activity can be used whenever people don’t know each other and need to connect at any phase of the work, and especially in the organizing phase.

Purpose of Activity:
– To get participants comfortable talking in pairs and about race/ethnicity
– To allow participants an opportunity to reflect on their past and present experiences
– To help participants feel more comfortable thinking about their experiences through a racial/ethnic/cultural lens.

This activity was created so that participants could start talking about race and ethnicity in pairs. This activity help participants begin to build relationships. Through answering the 6:00 to 9:00 questions, participants will be able to reflect on their past and present experiences through a racial/ethnic/cultural lens.

Find the entire activity on ED’s site here

About Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy (formerly called the Study Circles Resource Center) is a project of The Paul J. Aicher Foundation, a private operating foundation dedicated to strengthening deliberative democracy and improving the quality of public life in the United States. Since our founding in 1989, we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across the United States on issues such as: racial equity, poverty reduction and economic development, education reform, early childhood development and building strong neighborhoods. We work with national, regional and state organizations in order to leverage our resources and to expand the reach and impact of civic engagement processes and tools.

Follow on Twitter: @EvDem

Resource Link: http://everyday-democracy.org/resources/speed-meeting-activity-communities-addressing-racism