Workshops look to foster dialogue on racial issues

Joshua Schuetz
Staff Writer

It was a small group, gathered in the Centennial Student Union Tuesday evening. But the issues that they discussed were as large as American history itself.

In order to foster better community dialogue and engagement on racial issues, the Greater Mankato Diversity Council has sponsored a series of workshops concerning these issues, designed to both inform people and foster discussion among them. 

“We thought that our conversations on race, as we’ve currently had them, could be more productive,” Bukata Hayes, the Executive Director of the Greater Mankato Diversity Council, said. 

The workshops rely on the use of journals, discussion sections, video presentations, and oral presentations. Hayes stated that the journals, as a way of allowing people to commit their thoughts to writing before discussing them was an important part of the process.

“One of the things that we thought, as we were coming up with this process is ‘do we allow time to provide for personal reflection before responding?’” Hayes said. “That was the idea behind using journals, to let people work through those things.”

Hayes added that this method of approaching the issue is unique to the program. “In our research, this is the only effort of its kind in the country, and it is the only protocol that uses journaling as an intentional way to foster the conversation,” he said.

According to Hayes, one of the primary drivers behind the establishment of these workshops was a simple question: if a racial incident happened in Mankato (like what happened in Minneapolis with the shooting of Philando Castile), how would the community respond, and would it, upon reflection, be proud of that response?

The format of the workshop consists of the sharing of information through a variety of mediums, including oral, literary, and video presentation, followed by a period of time wherein the participants can commit their own thoughts on the information presented into writing. Thereafter, a period of time, typically between two and four minutes, is provided for people to discuss their own thoughts, including but not limited to what they wrote down.

This particular workshop focused on the definition of race, particularly within its social context throughout American history, as well as historical policies carried out by the federal government on a racially discriminatory basis, with a particular emphasis on redlining. 

Redlining was the practice by which the government would designate a neighborhood as being unfit to invest in, often on discriminatory grounds. This designation would then be accepted by the private sector, resulting in widespread housing discrimination that continues to shape the conflict in many American cities to this day.

These issues are neither comfortable nor pleasant to discuss, but in many ways, that is precisely the point of these workshops. As Frederick Douglass once said, “If there’s no struggle, there’s no progress.”

Feature photo by Maria Ly | MSU Reporter.

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