I was invited by a colleague to prepare a video to share with aspiring journalist, these are some thoughts that came to mind. The more I think about it, this is good advice for anyone during these difficult times. No matter what kind of work you are doing, these attitudes should prove helpful for all of us.
Facilitate Conversations: It is far easier to simplify circumstances to the lowest common denominator than it is to facilitate dialogues between communities. But this promotes understanding where the former perpetuates division.
Extend to others the agency of sharing their experiences without comment, expectations, or other dismissive, exploitative, or patronizing remarks. Believe Black people and other People of Color. Keep in mind that the normative culture that invites us as white people to share our stories is the same culture that discourages people of color from sharing theirs without fear of repercussion.
Seek first to understand. Then to be understood. Listen for the communal connections and not merely the individualistic overtones. We have a tendency to reward the novel, the exceptional, and the unique. What if instead we listened for themes of the perennial, the ordinary, and the common. This could go a long way in reinforcing the ideas that as Americans we have shared experiences that if not equal are relatable, and in this way none of us are very far from history.
Avoid simplistic dichotomies and false binaries. For example, we should be able to grasp that while the institution of policing and justice in America has very deep inequalities when comes to enforcement and sentencing, we can at the same understand that not all people in these institutions are bad actors. We should be able to acknowledge residual racism and privilege in our own lives and at the same time advocate for America to live up to its founding principles that “All people are created equal” and should be treated as such under the law.
What would you add to my list for those who are attempting to build bridges instead of erecting walls?