Talking to “Others”

Today I spoke to a local unit of the Seattle King County League of Women Voters about my recent discussions with a new (to me) group of people who do not share my voting tendencies. As you may recall, I wrote a blog post before the election telling everyone to vote a straight Democratic ticket. I don’t actually recall what I was most upset about at that time, perhaps the Senate’s refusal to pass a Covid relief package, perhaps it was the successful effort to install Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court before the election. I’m basically not a Republican, so it could have been any number of concerns.

However, after the election, I was surprised at the amount of support Trump had, and also at the increasing share of minority voters he gathered. So I set out to find some Trump voters who would talk with me about why they voted as they did. I used Twitter as my search tool, broadening the people I follow to include more people who likely didn’t vote like me. Before long, I found a link to a video of a young woman who was in trouble for resisting her employer’s mandatory Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion workshop that required her to discuss her childhood experience with whiteness. These workshops are now common requirements for many employees.

I decided to follow her story, and before too long, I was included in a group of people who care about the outcome of her resistance. We now chat weekly, more or less. This group includes some who voted for Trump, some who won’t say, and some who didn’t. We have a trans person, a gay person, an attorney, a retired teacher, and assorted others from the US and abroad. Some of the people are mixed race, some are white, and some don’t say. The most important point is not that they have diverse “identities” in today’s jargon, but that they also possess diverse opinions and speak freely. The primary focus has been on resistance to Critical Race Theory, or Critical Theory in general, or just Wokeness, the capture of main stream media by Wokeness, and the anti-Liberal dangers of this orthodoxy.

Because I believe the League is in danger of succumbing to this anti-Liberal trend, I decided to present my concerns to my local League. I also wanted to caution the League to beware of becoming so insulated that important issues will not be thoroughly discussed, and that members might become so reluctant to speak freely that we would not have a good understanding of their views. To help organize my thoughts, I developed a slide show and included a view of the Grand Canyon to illustrate my sense of the political divide in the US today. If we cannot bridge this chasm soon, I fear for our future.

The good news is that my presentation was well received. I got some blowback about my assumption that there is some truth on both sides, but I backed up this assumption with some examples of Democratic wrongthink. (Come on, surely you can think of some examples.) We had a robust discussion, and I was very relieved that people engaged in this conversation. One compelling graphic shows the breakout of “Hidden Tribes” from their 2018 report; it shows the percent of activists on the far left and far right and the “exhausted middle,” people who just want the government to function again. Given that the Zoom “room” was full of activists, and given our location in deep blue Seattle, it might have surprised some to see the size of the “exhausted middle.”

Source: Hidden Tribes report, 2018

I’ve also recently shown the movie, What Killed Michael Brown, a difficult clarification of the facts of Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson, MO, in 2015. The chant, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” has been part of Black Lives Matter protests ever since, even though this account of his death is simply wrong. Didn’t happen. We are going to have a further discussion of Michael Steele’s views of the damage done by “liberal government programs.” This is a topic which is complex and without easy answers, but one that engenders strong opinions. It’s an example of a subject that merits full discussion by people with differing perspectives rather than a discussion inhibited by fears of losing a job for raising concerns that are outside of Woke orthodoxy.

Another bit of good news is that there are several initiatives that seek to bridge our political divide and develop skills for having the kinds of conversations that we need to have. I listed some at then of the slide show, but more and more of them are gaining traction. One I especially want to promote is Counterweight Support. It’s been overwhelmed since it’s recent launch, but it offers some alternative ways to approach Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness training, alternatives that are more likely to bring people together than drive them apart.

My parting message today was that all “identities,” i.e. groups of people who share one or more immutable characteristics, are diverse. Black people are not a monolith. Trans people are not a monolith. No group is a monolith. Anyone who claims to speak for such a group represents only a portion of the group. We have keep reminding ourselves of this and listening to as many voices as we can.

A Resource:
Counterweight Support: After viewing some of their videos, look under their Toolbox Tab for Useful Organizations and Alternative Diversity Trainings. I’ve never participated in any of these, but I am enamored of Chloe Valdary’s Theory of Enchantment. Chloe is devoted to Dr. King’s emphasis on the “content of our character.”

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