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Improving Conversation on Divisive Topics (Part 2 of 3 Devan Jensen)

It’s incredibly easy to get into arguments on social media on topics like masks, vaccines, immigration, guns, politics.  How do we talk to those with whom we disagree? Devan Jensen had some ideas, on how we can use more charity in difficult conversations.

GT:  Of course, we have almost 100 years of fighting with them. Now, we seem to get along with them pretty well. How do we [talk about divisive topics?] Even in our political discourse, I mean, even in church, should you wear a mask? Should you not wear a mask, vaccine, anti-vaccine? How do we develop that spirit of brotherhood where we’re listening to each other and not fighting with each other?

Devan:  What a tremendous question. If I could answer that very decisively, you can make a million bucks off it, so, I’m going to only just touch on the surface of it. But I have had some engagements like this recently, where I’ve said, “Okay, tell me a little bit where you are, where you’re coming from,” and I’ve listened on social media, that’s my main platform.

GT:  That’s the worst place to be.

Devan:  It is the worst place to be having dialogue.  It’s much better to get in person. So, first of all, if you can get in person and talk with a person. Second of all, if you can express your love and concern, and third, if you can say, “Tell me your story. Tell me why you’ve arrived at this.”  For example, let’s just talk about the mask situation for a minute. What happens is people often go to a place of, “Well, it’s my right, it’s my constitutional right,” and they say…

Devan:  Right, exactly. So, I would probably start with something like this, “Okay, I understand, generally, that you’re concerned about our constitution, and you’re focused on our freedoms, and you don’t want our freedoms to be taken away.”  So, that would be–that’s common ground, we both share. I feel very much the same way. So, can you tell me how wearing a mask takes away your freedom in some way?”  So, maybe we’d start with that.

So, they could kind of kind of articulate, “Well, this is what I’m feeling, this is why I feel this way.”  It almost always goes to the core thing, which is, well, “I’m concerned about my rights in some other area other than masks, and so I’m transferring my concern about the freedoms into the mask thing.”

“Okay, I understand,” or shots or vaccines.

I had a good friend who’s strongly conservative, who said it this way, and I’m quoting him anonymously, because I didn’t ask his permission. But he said, “I am concerned about my freedoms being eroded in a lot of–in some area, but I don’t think masks are an area where my freedoms are being eroded.”

GT:  I don’t think masks were in the constitution.

Devan:  I thought, “That’s pretty, that’s pretty good reasoning.” He thought that through. He thought, “My community well-being is more important than the temporary discomfort I am feeling by putting this mask on or getting a shot in the arm.”  So, I think that he arrived at some good reasoning to help him to sort out those two things and separate them in a way that that didn’t feel threatening to him. So, that’s the kind of dialogue I think we can have with our friends who may be a little bit right or left from where we are.  We all are on some spectrum, and maybe on a spectrum on specific issues, even., there might be.  So, I think it’s helpful to recognize that that we do exist somewhere on a spectrum of political and religious beliefs. If we start there and start having people engage with us and tell their story, it will help us.

GT:  I feel like we’re in a little bit of a minefield here. But, I think these are the kinds of conversations we need to have.  Some other political minefields: immigration, LGBTQ.  Even within the Church, I think racism is a big problem, still. How do we–can you talk about how can we be more charitable for those with whom we disagree?

Devan:  I do like this quote, if I could share this. I kind of prepared some notes ahead of time. Above all, Be Kind. This is from Seven Keys to Successful Conversations, published some years ago by the Church. “Above all, be kind, show Christ-like love.”

Find out what else Devan said.  Do you have any ideas on improving conversation on divisive topics?  Check out our conversation….

Devan Jensen gives advice on how to improve conversation on divisive topics.

Don’t miss our previous conversation with Devan!

569: LDS Publishing & Media Assoc

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Can White People talk about Racism? (Part 4 of 5)

Let’s face it.  Race is a tough subject to bring up.  Is there ever pushback from black people when white people talk about racism?  We’ll talk about white people leading conversations about race with Emmy award winning director Loki Mulholland.

Loki:  I mean, this is just to fair, because racism is a white person’s disease that we keep asking everyone else to solve. Now, there’s a lot of emotion involved in this, a lot more emotional investment for African Americans than it is for white people, clearly.  So, that’s going to come out from some people.   Again, they’re entitled to those opinions. But, yeah, you can feel like you’re getting piled on or whatever else, but why be in the game, if you’re just going to quit?

Loki:  People ask, “Do you ever get pushback from black people?” I’m like, “No, most pushback that I get is actually from white people.” There are some people who aren’t happy with me that are African American, I’m sure. That’s all right. There are people who said–look, there’s African Americans who aren’t happy with my mom. Good grief. That’s all right. But, that’s not all black people, just like, not all white people are racist, for goodness sakes. It can seem like that, but not every black person is an angry black person, either.  Even though the white people, anytime a black person says something oppositional or questions somebody, [a white person might say,] “Oh, well, they’re an angry black man.”  People go, “Well,” I get people like, “Is it unfair for you to be hired to talk about diversity inclusion? Who are you to talk about diversity inclusion.” I’m like, “Well, [I was hired] because they’re not going to listen to you, if you’re black.” Trust me, white people don’t listen to black people. If they’re talking about racism, they’re definitely not listening to that. Because, one, we go, “They have an agenda, because they’re black.”  It’s racism, so, of course, they have an agenda.

Loki:  There’s more of an inclination for a white person to listen to me talking about it, because also my mother. I get that little, I don’t want to call it a trump card, because I don’t curse. But, I had that little card. I can play my mom card, because she’s a civil rights activist. People can see that. There’s something to be said about that. It’s not for African Americans to go, “Oh, my gosh, thank goodness there’s a lot of white person who’s actually a decent human being,” like my mother. It’s for white people to go, “Oh, I didn’t know we were involved in the civil rights movement. Wow.” It’s something to stop and think. This wasn’t just a black issue. This is an American issue.

What do you think?  Check out our conversation….

Who gets more upset about conversations on racism: blacks or whites?

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Loki.

530: Films Combating Racism Directed by a Mormon

529: Son of a Civil Rights Icon

528: End of Slavery (in Utah???)

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Films Combating Racism Directed by a Mormon (Part 3 of 5)

The LDS Church has had a rough history when it comes to race, so it may surprise you to find out that one of its members has made several award-winning documentaries, including an Emmy dealing with racism.  We’ll talk about these award-winning films from director Loki Mulholland.

Loki:  “An Ordinary Hero,” which is about my mom, and the student movement. Then, there’s “The Uncomfortable Truth,” which is about the history of institutional racism in America, how we got to where we are. That’s actually a genealogy journey, as well, very fascinating. I get messages from people asking me about–all sorts of questions about that film still.

GT:  Well, and your family had owned slaves, right?

Loki:  We owned people. Yeah. We actually helped start the whole thing, quite frankly. We arrived in Jamestown in 1610. We started–we were one of the original planner elites. We served in the House of Burgesses. We were there. We also were one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence. So, we’re real Americans.

Loki:  I say that a little cheekily, sacrilegiously, but the fact of the matter is, I get people who tried to argue that I’m not a real American, blah, blah, blah. I’m like, “Hey, wait, hold on. Hold on one second, now. We fought in every war. Right? We did all of it, we did everything. We were there for all of it, the good and the bad.

Loki:  “Black, White, & Us”  is about racism through the lens of transracial adoptions in Utah. So, these were white families who believe that racism doesn’t exist anymore, and then they adopt these black children. It’s like this eye-opening experience for them. Because now suddenly, their neighbors, their own family members, everyone else is coming out of the woodworks saying all sorts of stuff to them. But, they actually have to confront racism, because these are their children.  They can no longer sit there and go, “Yeah, but maybe that’s not what the police meant when they pulled you over, and maybe this and maybe that.  Maybe that’s not what your teacher said.”  And it’s like, “No, I mean, this is actually for real.” It’s a fascinating exploration.

Loki:  Another film is “After Selma,” which is about voter suppression since the 1965 Civil Rights Act. So, Selma, Alabama, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, that has iconic images.  People are like, “Oh, well, everyone can vote.  All as well.” Well, no, not all is well. There’s still a lot going on. So, that’s that film. Then, obviously, the “End of Slavery,” and “The Evers.”  This is about the family of Medgar Evers, and his assassination. He was shot in the back by Byron de la Beckwith while standing in his driveway. We interview his wife and his kids and so forth.  We have to understand that these historical places, actually, these people are still alive in a lot of cases when it comes to civil rights movement. These are real stories, these are real people, real lives, real impact. So, when you go and see their house where he was killed, it’s not just merely, “This is an historical place.” It’s like, “No people lived here. They laughed. They loved. They cried.  It’s making history real.

Have you watched any of these films?  Check out our conversation….

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Loki.

529: Son of a Civil Rights Icon

528: End of Slavery (in Utah???)