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A Community Table Conversation on Racial Justice During COVID-19

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Thomas Walker, Director, Inclusion & Equity Education

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Participating in A Community Table was a particularly powerful experience this spring. 

Our office supports people in engaging across difference, in building understanding, relationships and coalitions through dialogue. This year, our amazing staff has hosted an MLK weekend student dialogue retreat, dialogue skills workshops, and a multi-week dialogue series via Zoom among other events. (We even helped prepare host resource materials for A Community Table!) And then one staff member pointed out that, for all the recruiting and supporting others in their connections, our full team had never actually dialogued with one another. So, we took our own grand challenge, and set aside time to explore how we each were experiencing COVID-19 in relation to our various identities. 

The difference in tone, depth, and meaning compared to our regular meetings, tasks, and even casual office chat was incredible: Observations of how biased fears showed up in neighborhood children’s play. Worries for family members whose work was essential, risky, but not well-paid. Stuck at home with relatives and their challenging opinions. Reminders that masks are perceived differently by others depending on the wearer. Feelings of powerlessness as previous means of helping weren’t possible. Time for reflection on and commitment to new behaviors going forward. Realizations of new tech potentials for networking for change. Appreciating one another as people, not just colleagues. 

Even for someone with decades in this work, and especially during this strange season, it was a wonderful reminder of the amazing power of simply pausing, genuinely asking, actively listening, and intentionally moving beyond the everyday.