Columbia Residents Converse on Combating Biases

Dec 11, 2015

Credit Abigail Coursen / KBIA News

In the wake of demonstrations on the University of Missouri’s campus, Columbia residents are looking for strategies in how best to approach difficult subject matters.

On Thursday night, the Diversity Awareness Partnership (DAP), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion around issues such as race and religion held a “Listen. Talk. Learn. Community” session.

At the session Columbia residents learned about ways in which they could respectfully talk about topics such as racism and bias within the community.

Katelyn Botts was in attendance at Tuesday night’s community session.

Botts said she feels it is her responsibility to do what she can to combat the racial tensions and biases within Columbia.

“I want to be a part of making things better in this community,” Botts said.

Botts said hearing the stories of individuals who have experienced the prejudice first hand is what drives her to continually do what she can spread awareness and educate individuals on racial biases.

“Hearing them say ‘I worry about my child and how her last name, or his last name, is going to affect them later on in life,’ hearing those kinds of things is very impactful,” Botts said.

The talk comes on the heels of protests and demonstrations at the University of Missouri, where students and faculty called for the resignation of then-system president, Tim Wolfe, saying he was not active enough regarding issues of racial inclusion on campus. 

Nikki McGruder, the manager for DAP’s Columbia branch said the demonstrations on the campus reiterate Columbia’s need for open dialogue.  

“We saw that there was a need but you can’t explain the timing. We need to keep these talks going,” McGruder said.

Director of Diversity Training, Kenneth Pruitt, was the facilitator at Thursday night’s session.

He said one of the main problems people encounter when trying to talk about difficult topics such as racism and biases within their communities, is that they or the people they are having the conversation with, approach the discussion with their guards up and ready to argue if necessary.  

“In general the way we talk about debate versus dialogue, is that dialogue is far more constructive than debate is. Debate is so that one person is correct and one person is incorrect.

Dialogue is much more about engaging with somebody, hearing them out, even when you do not agree with what they are saying,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt says if people can move away from the idea of “debating” ideas and more towards “dialoguing” about ideas then the conversations that take place will be much more educational and effective for all parties involved.

The Diversity Awareness Partnership will host one more of their open dialogue sessions Friday afternoon from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Shelter Mutual Insurance Company building on Broadway.