Shortly after the death of George Floyd last May, several concerned PebbleCreek residents formed a group to discuss race issues in America. For almost a year, the group has met weekly either virtually or in person to discuss this potentially hot-button topic. The conversations are often intense, but always eye-opening and respectful.
The group is composed of five Black and five white members of our community. Most of the members met for the first time when they joined the group. With no playbook on how to approach such a huge, complex topic, the conversation started by having each member share their personal history and life experiences. Naturally, this led to many questions. One question that would seem to have an obvious, simple answer asked of the white group members, “What were the circumstances when you first realized you were white?” and then asked of the Black members, “What were the circumstances when you first realized you were Black?” revealed vastly different and sometimes upsetting responses. Because of the trust that has slowly developed, the members feel comfortable to tell more. The personal stories have been nothing short of illuminating.
The participants come from diverse backgrounds, upbringings, and vary substantially in age. One is an immigrant to the United States. Another is a first generation American. Members have resided in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, Ohio, Illinois, Kansas, and California. They practice different faiths. Careers in business, corrections, law, medicine, public health, education, and extended military service have added to the breadth of the rich discussions.
Much of the group’s time has been devoted to exploring a variety of books, documentaries, and fictional movies, as well as newspaper and magazine articles concerning race issues in America. The group’s goal is not to change each other’s mind to a particular point of view. Rather, the goal is to expand awareness and understand how race has deeply impacted each member of the group in different ways. While the members do not agree on all issues, they always practice respectful listening, coupled with the desire to understand each other’s point of view and life experiences. It is this style of interaction that has been crucial for sustaining the group and moving it forward.
The group members believe wholeheartedly that the awareness they are seeking can be achieved by everyone who is willing to pursue it with an open mind. Their hope is that more groups like this will soon develop and thrive in PebbleCreek.