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How Can We Have Kids Talk to Each Other if Schools are Segregated?

June 28, 2021

Nick Kristof’s column describing how Black musician Daryl Davis persuaded scores of KKK members to abandon their racist perspectives was heartwarming and hopeful. As a 10 year old, Mr. Davis was assaulted by a group of white racists. He described his reaction thus:

“I was incredulous,” Davis recalled. “My 10-year-old brain could not process the idea that someone who had never seen me, who had never spoken to me, who knew nothing about me, would want to inflict pain upon me for no other reason than the color of my skin.”

“How can you hate me,” he remembers wondering, “when you don’t even know me?”

Over the years that followed, Mr. Davis found out the answer to his question by engaging racists in dialogue… and unsurprisingly he found that the hatred can only exist when individuals do NOT know each other. Dialogue can help forge unity far more than debate. In Kristof’s words: “If we’re all stuck in the same boat, we should talk to each other.” Kristof then quotes Adam Grant:

“Daryl Davis demonstrates that talking face-to-face with your ideological opponents can motivate them to rethink their views,” said Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “He’s an extraordinary example of what psychologists have repeatedly shown with evidence: In over 500 studies, interacting face-to-face with an out-group reduced prejudice 94 percent of the time.

But as long as our schools are segregated racially and sociologically how can children interact face-to-face with an out-group? And if CHILDREN don’t have that kind of interaction before leaving high school and they reside in racially and socio-economically segregated neighborhoods or communities, when will they ever have the opportunity unless we intentionally create it for them? More than anything else, this is the best argument for mandatory public service. For creating a place where “out-groups” can interact with each other and come to understand that we are all in the same boat.

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