Introduction: The Road to Navigating Healthy Conversations Around Issues in Diversity

Jun 9, 2015

The unavoidable truth is that we live, work and play in the St. Louis region. At the time of the events in Ferguson, some of us lived closer than others to the tensions that surrounded that community. Many voices rang out for justice. All voices that rang out signaled that there is a heavy need for understanding in our communities.

The tensions in the Ferguson community spread throughout our region, throughout our state and throughout the country. Many of us faced difficult comments or issues having conversations with others in our region because we did not know how to react. Many of us battled with not wanting to say the wrong thing, not being able to express our feelings, while yet others battled with wanting to understand what was going on. Many of us also battled rude and negative comments, or beliefs from people different from them. We even faced not agreeing on certain aspects of the situation with people that we may have quite a bit in common with.

It has been over nine months, but many of us still struggle with having these conversations. With the recent events in Baltimore and continuing efforts in the St. Louis region, these uneasy conversations will probably continue for some time. What Diversity Awareness Partnership has discovered is that even though these conversations are difficult, people do want to talk about it. People want to be understood and heard, but they also want to listen so that they can understand as well. In a response to this need in the community, DAP began the Listen. Talk. Learn. (LTL) campaign and community sessions. People began to come together to talk around what was happening in our region.

Now, more than ever, companies are reaching out to strengthen diversity and race inclusion efforts within and around their organizational settings. However, these companies often struggle with the initial phase of beginning the conversation with their employees.

Starbucks tried a different approach with their Race Together campaign. Instead of speaking about racial issues internally within the company, the Starbucks CEO wanted the baristas at the coffee shop locations to spark the conversation with customers. The campaign faced much controversy shortly after it began. Though the baristas were not trained to facilitate conversations regarding race issues in our country, the idea behind the campaign was positive toward trying to spark change in our nation. By the reaction of many customers, the approach of having these conversations probably should have been something that was taught to the baristas in order for them to facilitate strong conversations with others.

This is where we want to help. We not only offer our LTL community sessions just to the community – we have also gotten the opportunity to be invited by companies in the region to facilitate conversations about race with their employees. In these sessions, not only do we give the chance for people to Listen. Talk. Learn., but we equip participants with the skills they need to have these conversations with their colleagues, neighbors and family members.

With the knowledge that these strong conversations will and should happen outside of the open space that we have provided, we want to help you conduct conversations with your peers, and even strangers. In a series of blog posts, helpful tips will be shared to help you have a conversation with another person around the issues that have come to light in our own community. These tips should help you navigate healthy conversations around any topic that people may have strong views about.


  1. The Difference Between Debate and Dialogue


By Jasmine Brown, Communications & Outreach Coordinator
Diversity Awareness Partnership