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Conversation vs Action: How truthful discussions can heal racial tensions in America

Protesters in Ferguson in August 2014
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Recent incidents from Ferguson to Baltimore regarding police and community relationships have fostered other uncomfortable truths on the state of racial affairs in America. Many wonder what can be done to address the age-old issue or if there is any one particular act that will solve it.

What about the “truth?”

The Truth Telling Project, a multi-cultural initiative that began in response to the Ferguson protests, allows individuals to speak their personal truths about their experiences with racism, as well as to listen to others. The goal of the project is to reconcile race relations by fostering conversations that will lead to healing and actions in order to combat the issue. On June 27, the group will host a discussion entitled “Violence in America: Exposure Through Truth-Telling” with Dr. Angela Davis as the guest speaker.

While there have been many conversations about race relations in America, Imani Scott, professor of communication at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, and Pastor Cori Bush, a Ferguson protester and activist, explained that reconciling the issue is often easier said than done. According to the two, many of the recent incidents in cities such as Baltimore and the overall power structure in America hinder the healing process and ultimately set back attempts at solving race relations.

“The thing is when you decide to heal and then something else happens, you’re wondering, ‘Am I done with this [issue],’” Bush expressed. “If things are still happening, then am I really ready [to move forward]?”

“People that hold power don’t typically yield that power willingly,” Scott said, regarding power structure. “I think that the oppressor in this country, particularly white Americans, holistically, have held the power for so long, and I don’t see them yielding that power until they begin to sense an incentive to do so. One of the greatest incentives to do so is to engage them in this conversation and to help them to realize the ways that our country is falling apart by not having the conversation.”

“There has to be some real, structural changes that essentially change the way that our nation operates,” said David Ragland, founding member of the Truth Telling Project.

Scott explained that although there is no evidence that conversations work all of the time, solving the issues of racism ultimately happens when all citizens respect each other’s humanity. “One of the things that we see coming out of the [church shooting] in Charleston was so much pain, that it drew people together from different sides of the aisle,” she said. “Sometimes, it may be something that really shakes up our society for us to get to that point.”

Related Event

Violence in America: Exposure Through Truth-Telling with Dr. Angela Davis

  • When: June 27, 5-8 p.m. (Doors open at 4 p.m.)
  • Where: Cardinal Ritter College Prep, 701 North Spring Ave, St. Louis, MO 63108
  • More information

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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