|What do we mean by dialogue?
A dialogue is a forum
that draws participants from as many parts of the community as possible to
exchange information face-to-face, share personal stories and experiences,
honestly express perspectives, clarify viewpoints, and develop solutions to
Unlike debate, dialogue emphasizes listening to deepen understanding (see
Appendix A, "The Difference Between Debate and Dialogue"). Dialogue
invites discovery It develops common values and allows participants to express
their own interests. It expects that participants will grow in understanding
and may decide to act together with common goals. In dialogue, participants can
question and reevaluate their assumptions. Through this process, people are
learning to work together to improve race relations.
What makes for successful interracialdialogue?
The nature of the dialogue process can motivate people to work towards
change (see Appendix A, "Examples of Race Reconciliation from Across the
Nation"). Effective dialogues do the following:
- Move towards solutions rather than continue to express or analyze
the problem. Anemphasis on personal responsibility moves the discussion
away from finger-pointing or naming enemies and towards constructive common
- Reach beyond the usual boundaries. When fully developed,
dialogues can involve the entire community, offering opportunities for new,
unexpected partnerships. New partnerships can develop when participants listen
carefully and respectfully to each other. A search for solutions focuses on the
common good as participants are encouraged to broaden their horizons and build
relationships outside their comfort zones.
- Unite divided communities through a respectful, informed sharing of
local racial history and its consequences for different people in today's
society. The experience of "walking through history" together
can lead to healing.
- Aim for a change of heart, not just a change of mind.
Dialogues go beyond sharing and understanding to transforming participants.
While the process begins with the individual, it eventually involves groups and
institutions. Ultimately, dialogues can affect how policies are made.