A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota Community Conversation
Last Wednesday (February 28), White Bear Lake Area Schools, the City of White Bear Lake and Century College co-sponsored a Community Conversation inspired by the book "A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, edited by Sun Yung Shin and the Minnesota Historical Society. Mayor Jo Emerson and Superintendent Dr. Wayne Kazmierczak welcomed more than 60 community members to the Boatworks Commons. Participants sat in small groups, led by local leaders acting as table hosts, in a room wallpapered with quotes from the book. The program was facilitated by Nickyia Cogshell, Chief Diversity Officer at Century College. In this role, she provides strategic diversity leadership by collaborating with executive cabinet, departments, and units across the college to advance diversity priorities and strategies.
The intent of the event was to create a space where people could explore their own implicit biases and cultural norms, and hopefully feel comfortable to share without fear of judgement - encouraging people to move beyond their silence and seek to understand. Participants discussed the following questions:
Where do your ideas about race come from? What are the sources of your information?
Does race affect your life? Why or why not? If so, in what ways?
What gets in the way of having dialogues and relationships with people from racial and/or ethnic backgrounds that are different from you?
What do you know about the way race affects the lives of people of color and American Indians? What is source of information? How do you know?
As a person who identifies as a person of color and/or American Indian, to what extent has race affected your life?
To improve racial equity in my neighborhood, workplace, or school, what can you influence?
When asked to reflect on the evening, respondents shared their biggest take away:
That race is a social construct – something we invented. This is powerful because it tells us that there's power to change the perception.
I really valued the opportunity to have an open conversation about race, equity, and social justice.
That listening to each other's stories is important work.
I need to be more proactive to learn more, engage more and seek diversity. Don't wait for it to come to me.
It is our responsibility to interrupt racism.
People in our community want to talk about race and it is a priority for the city and community.
100% of respondents requested more events like this in the future asking for programs addressing white privilege, race, gender, culture and intersectionality. They suggested panels, speakers, and ongoing discussions but most importantly requested more opportunities where all people in our community feel welcome - to meet, discuss, listen and learn from each other. Encouraged by such positive feedback - White Bear Lake Area Schools, the City of White Bear Lake and Century College are committed to working together to bring more of these types of engagement and education opportunities to the community.