By Julia Wolf
Wednesday’s morning session was about a subject that many Americans struggle to talk about: race. Michael Eric Dyson and Greg Carr both spoke extensively about race in American politics. While I did not completely agree with everything they had to say, they did point out some things I think would be beneficial to include in our political discussions.
Dyson said he thinks race had an important role on how the presidential election played out. He said the white working class was one of the main blocks that voted for Trump. Black and brown working class citizens were a different story, Dyson said. He noted many working minorities did not vote for Trump like their white counterparts did.
Identity is the heart of what it means to be an American, Dyson said. He said that we do not need to worship identity politics, but we do have to acknowledge it, since it is so fundamental to the understanding of politics.
Dyson encouraged whites to talk about race when they are in white circles. And while he noted that political correctness could lead to people dancing around the subject instead of engaging with it head on, Dyson also pointed out the way avoiding political correctness could also become a justification for bigotry. He encouraged empathy in the conversations about race toward the other groups, regardless of skin color.
Earlier in the week, Julia Azari spoke about the importance of choosing the language we use when we are discussing political issues. The three elements of an elevated discourse she listed were careful honesty, inclusive language and rigor. I agree that all three are necessary in order to have a meaningful conversation about tough issues like race without overstepping the bounds of civility.
Wednesday afternoon brought a number of site visits with the theme of discussing the role of congress from three different viewpoints: an analysis of the branch from a political scientist, from the insiders perspective of a member of congress and from the point of view of lobbyists.
The class had the opportunity to speak to Representative David Young. He spoke about the responsibility he feels members of congress have to talk to all members of their constituencies, not just those whose beliefs align with those of the members.
I think that is definitely an important step in elevating political discourse. Matt Thornblad, who is a lobbyist for United Technologies, also noted the importance of being able to talk to people who you disagree with and being able to maintain a healthy working relationship with them.
Race is an issue many people find it tricky to discuss. The speakers’ reminders to do our best to listen and understand before speaking in a kind, civil and empathetic manner is something I think we all should take a moment to consider.