There is so much going on in the United States right now, in this summer of 2020. I felt that it was important for me to take a break so that I could listen, watch, read, and learn more about some of the things that are dividing us as a nation. Some of them are political differences. Some of them can be traced back 400 years to our history of systemic racism. There’s the Coronavirus and the Climate Crisis. I’m trying to understand how we got to this place in time, how these things are connected, and what kind of conversations we need to be having in order to solve some of these problems.
Like many of you, I’ve been searching for answers on the internet and on social media. One day I was on Instagram and was captivated by a video that touched my heart. The man in the video was talking about the importance of asking questions and engaging in conversations that educate. It turns out that we both are podcast hosts, language coaches and language learners, fans of Jonathan Haidt, and can’t wait to get to Warsaw.
About Raphael Freeman
Raphael is a political scientist by training who says he somehow stumbled into the world of personal development coaching and podcasting. He uses the lenses of history and psychology to contextualize our current moment and help people live a life of purpose and contribution.
In this conversation, Raphael and I talk about culture and divisiveness in the United States. We discuss the ways that open dialogue can provide opportunities for learning about different perspectives and how this can lead to understanding and reconciliation. The conversation is divided into 3 parts. Here are some of the takeaways and questions for conversation.
What is culture?
“Culture means to me the way that we do things over and over again. . . .”
Culture is agreed-upon habits and traditions, as in making a certain type of food.
Culture also includes learned patterns of perception and values shared by a group of people.
- Raphael talked about independence, individualism, and consumerism as part of American Culture.
- Innovation and entrepreneurship are two other aspects of American culture.
- We also talked about our society using the metaphors of “a melting pot” and “a tapestry woven from many different threads.”
- Deconstructionism and intersectionality are ways of looking at social categorizations such as race, class, and gender.
Questions for conversation
- How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed the way we move about in the world?
- Why did the murder of George Floyd spark a national and global response?
- What is the relationship between the government and its citizens?
- How do different values and moral foundations find expression in groups of people?
- What are the things that divide us? What do we have in common?
- What kind of conversations will help us unite and work together to solve some of our problems?
- What is our individual responsibility?
“With or without a personal relationship, I think that we all need to be willing to engage in dialogue and be willing to ask questions and help educate folks in order to fight for the country that we all deserve. It’s not above me to do the mental and emotional labor of helping to educate a fellow American. Is that not the labor of all of us?” – Raphael Freeman
What are some ways to approach dialogue with someone who has a very different perspective?
- Ask permission to have the conversation.
- Be aware of your own intentions and state them at the beginning of the conversation. A desire to learn and to understand different perspectives are helpful intentions.
- Show an interest in the other person and what is important to them. Be open and curious. Ask “how” and “what” questions.
- Paraphrase what the other person said so they know they’ve been heard. That also gives them a chance to clarify anything misunderstood.
- Look for common ground, things that you have in common.
- Respect differences. We’re all on the human journey and we need each other.
Resources to learn more:
Jonathan Haidt and Moral Foundation Theory (at 12 minutes, there is a solution for cooperative problems, like wearing masks and social distancing)
Braver Angels, an organization devoted to depolarizing America
The Urgency of Intersectionality, TED talk by Kimberlé Crenshaw
Learn by Listening Anti-Racist Guide for Educators by Hannah Assefa