How to Get Americans to Talk About Race

Racial healing is all about “heart change,” at least that is what Reverend Sylvester Turner believes is the true catalyst for social change. Turner is the director of reconciliation programs for the nonprofit, Hope in the Cities, based in Richmond, Virginia. Hope in the Cities has helped organize more than 200 “racial healing” dialogues for politicians, nonprofit leaders, and church groups, which have made the topic of race less of a taboo subject. This is no small, task given that 80 percent of millennials prefer not to discuss race issues, and a majority of both black and white adults say they are uncomfortable broaching the subject with a person of another race. The key to discussions like these being successful, Turner says, is to make sure they are not simply “one-offs.” It takes time to build a space in which people feel comfortable expressing their feelings and sharing personal opinions. One does not simply jump straight into a discussion about school segregation, redlining, or other forms of racism without first building a “container of trust” with those involved. Once a sense of commonality is found between the participants, the stage is set to begin dealing with the divides that exist. Studies show that the best way to overcome bias is to engage on a personal level with those you have bias against, which is often much easier said than done. Many people do not feel comfortable doing so, and may not know where to begin. This is what is so beneficial about racial healing dialogues like these. Much of the groundwork is already done by the time participants arrive: the stage is set, the questions are in place, and the environment to have honest conversations with one another has been prepared. It is exactly this kind of open dialogue that Epoch Education is working to promote. Through having what are sometimes tough conversations, bias can be overcome, racial prejudice can be left behind, and an all-inclusive culture can emerge.