“Man this is awesome”

(How to co-construct dialogue)

Hi Janis Cooke Newman, (and Jasmine Y. Kent — below, I refer to your comment about candor, relief, and relatability re: Kevin Pennant’s and my exchange about Jeff Huffman’s recent piece: “I Never Spoke to a Black Man Until I Went to Mizzou.”

Janis, I agree with WILLOWANDSHIELD that this is beautifully written. And you are pointing in the best direction . . . the thing is, how do we “learn” from history? It seems to me that “we” (i.e., human beings interested in peace and social justice) need to be as creative and inventive with new terms and phrases as those who are ‘acting out’ and behaving in ways that replicate historical discourses.

This is fresh in mind because I posted a query to Stacy Abramson and the folk of Medium’s in-house publication, Bright, (which I suspect they read disfavorably, sigh) about introducing new terminology, new concepts, etc — language that could qualify as “jargon.” It seems to me that new phrases and ways of framing come about because of the juxtapositions of ‘new’ ‘different’ languages: indeed, the sources of innovation and creativity come from putting ‘old’ ‘familiar’ things together new, hitherto unrecognized (perhaps because un-cognizable!) ways.

Back to your point about the repetition of anti-refugee discourses: how do we historicize a frame for the current Syrian crisis without resorting to a parallel demagogic rhetoric, such as the populist speeches of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren? Thrilling as these speeches are (thank you!), where are the openings or invitations to create something more substantive in-the-middle, in-between the extremes? We have to conceptualize them as placeholders and doorstoppers for the emergence of non-shrill interaction.

In the thread I referenced at the start of this post, Jeff Huffman says, “There is no blame to pass around.” Some folks in the numerous responses picked up on a version of ‘no blame’ (Dustin Hampton, Rachel Brekhus); others emphasize Jeff’s courage in exposing some vulnerability (Joel Leon., Amanda Magee, Raymond Hui, Syed A. Hussain, GQ NYC, John C. Bland II, Danielle Mascioli); some offered solutions (Brian Fogel, Laurie 'Molly' Downs, Angie Ng, mosbyknowsme, Peter Marquie, Allene Swienckowski, Dominik Schlund, Franklyn François, J W Greene); others offer context (Debra Johnson, praneeth pidugu, ), there are critiques (Roy Reichle, Dan Treccia, Lara Morris Starr, Rick Fischer, Björn Günzel, Wolfkin, James Methvin, @zerrick); some point out the perniciousness of silence (Christina Gabriel, Mark Hoani Campbell); some identify with Jeff (Paul Hossfield, dan.greenfield, Andrew Kunz, Jim Diederichs, Ken Pilcher); some express gratitude (Mary Brown, Patricia Sumner, Shirley Soodeen, Ron Braithwaite); some offer encouragement (e.g., Jill Nicholson); others tell stories of what it was like ‘on the other side,’ e.g., growing up in “one of the very few families of colour” (Dominic Amann, anticlimber); some provide sarcasm (Jim Hoyt-McDaniels, Bob Higgins, adewale afolabi); and some curiosity (e.g., Esther Nakkazi) and comparison (e.g., Les Brown).

The thread that Jasmine picked up on was Kevin’s response (which I would categorize along with mine in the “solutions” category— please note all the categorizations are off-the-cuff and many responses could easily be placed in two or even more categories). Kevin says Jeff’s post is “a welcoming step towards…a radical reconsideration . . . and reconstruction.” I picked up on Kevin’s emphasis on Acceptance not negotiation. Kevin replied, saying (among other things), “effective communication is foremost predicated on valuing the dialogue in and of itself.” Further, he claims, “all of what ails us is repairable” and, what got me excited, named the idea that discomfort (in talking about race, in this instance) is just as conditioned as whatever the things are that make us feel comfortable.

This is when Jasmine chimed in:

Thank you all for your candor in your responses. You won’t ever know how relieving it is to see this article and you all’s receptiveness of this article. This perspective is very relatable and can start good discussion that people won’t shy away from. Man this is awesome.

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