Easing race and ethnicity discussions through living room conversations
// By Jacqueline Brennan
Let’s be honest. Talking about race and ethnicity can be uncomfortable. But would it be less uncomfortable in an environment where you feel more at ease, like say, your living room? That’s the premise of Living Room Conversations, a conversational model designed to revitalize civil discourse through conversation.
As a follow-up to a session during Upswell LA, join a “living room conversation” on race and ethnicity during the Upswell Chicago workshop, “How to Talk about Race and Ethnicity,” co-hosted by Mary Gaylord, managing partner of Living Room Conversations.
Supported by a conversational guide, share your perspectives and experiences to build a conversational bridge across issues that sometimes divide and separate us, and help build relationships that generate understanding and enable collaborative problem solving.
“We offer tools that give people a way to have a conversation about a topic that is sometimes difficult. Having a guide to follow helps make it easier than fumbling around on your own trying to have a conversation,” Mary explains. “They can follow the questions so they don’t have to invent them on the spot, and really focus deeply on listening to each other and sharing perspectives and experiences.”
Living Room Conversations has almost 100 conversation guides that are free, open-source, readily available, and cover a range of topics. And according to Mary, because the tools are scalable and replicable, people can turn their initial conversation about race and ethnicity into many more.
“The format is meant to be friendly and inviting to a wide variety of people, and not just racial and ethnically diverse people, but politically diverse, rural and urban, young and old – folks from all different walks of life. Maybe someone wants to take a conversation they’ve had and have it in an immigrant community. We also have a conversation guide on immigration. Or maybe someone wants to take a question from the race and ethnicity conversation guide and add two from the immigration guide and one from the homelessness guide.”
Mary is quick to add that each conversation is about 90 minutes to two hours, with conversation agreements that serve as containers for how to have the conversation.
“It’s not a debate, it’s not a platform. It’s a way to share your personal perspective and story, and to hear someone else’s. Not to convince them or change their mind. People are so hungry for that.”
How to Talk about Race and Ethnicity is happening Thursday, November 14 from 4:15 – 5:30pm.