Following the success of last month’s 3 Practices workshop, an estimated 60 attendees participated in a 90-minute Saturday afternoon session learning how to have productive discussions on divisive topics by using the 3 Practices techniques.
The event included a discussion of an issue that has stirred debate and division since our country’s founding: Racism.
The 3 Practices provide a simple set of techniques that help people stay in the room despite their difference. Developed by two local men — Jim Henderson of Bothell and Jim Hancock of Mountlake Terrace — the 3 Practices are guidelines that foster respectful discussion, and help us rise above our differences, find common ground with and gain respect for those with whom we disagree.
Saturday’s event was sponsored by Lynnwood Today, MLTnews and My Edmonds News.
The 3 Practices are as follows:
Practice one – Be unusually interested in others. It’s about genuine curiosity and a sincere interest in understanding the other person. Preface every question with “I’d be curious to know.”
Practice two – Stay in the room with a difference. Just because we voted for different people doesn’t mean we have to break up.
Practice three – Stop comparing my best with your worst. This practice acknowledges that not seeing something that appears obvious to someone else is not, in and of itself, a moral failing. By listening to another person describe what they see, we begin to understand that just as they’re not seeing what we see, we’re not seeing what they see. It’s all about accepting — and respecting — the fact that our answer isn’t the only answer, and just because someone has a different view, they’re not necessarily wrong.
After explaining the ground rules during the Saturday event at Edmonds United Methodist Church, Henderson called on the eight-member volunteer panel to come forward and be the test subjects in a real-life session applying the 3 Practices. Panelists were a diverse group, comprising six adults — John Rogers, Allen Belton, Mike Schindler, Ed Dorame, Alicia Crank and Diana White — and two Edmonds-Woodway High School students, juniors Samuel Schwartz and Kemmerly Chipongian.
Henderson then introduced the question.
“Some say racism is America’s original sin. Others say America is the freest nation in the world, and there’s no problem,” he began. “So what do you think? Is racism as American as apple pie, or not.”
The first two-minute statement was provided by panelist Mike Schindler, an Edmonds resident and Navy veteran.
“I see racism as an ageless problem that will likely not go away,” he began. He went on say that racism goes beyond American borders, citing example of historic racism such as practiced against Asians by the Dutch colonialists, and how members of one African tribe would capture members of other tribes to sell to slave traders.
“I’d be curious to know what you mean by the terms race and racism,” another panelist asked. Schindler responded that he sees racism as a belief that one race possess qualities that make its members superior to those of other races, citing the Nazi master race doctrine as an example.
Panelist Ed Dorame, an Edmonds business owner who sits on the city’s Diversity Commission, then chimed in, “I’d be curious to know if you think racism is learned or innate.” Schindler responded that he does not believe that people are born racist, but rather are shaped by their environment.
The next two-minute talk was given by panelist Alicia Crank, a black woman who serves on the Edmonds Planning Board and is corporate relations officer for YWCA Seattle/King/Snohomish.
“I believe racism is ingrained in the culture of America,” she began. “It’s why Africans were brought here in the first place. But over the years it’s become more and more based on power, with power being used to perpetuate racism and prejudice into the modern day.”
Responding to a question regarding how racism has affected her professional life and opportunities, Crank — who had a successful career in banking — responded that she learned she has to make choices that others don’t need to, and recognize that she has to work harder than others to get professional recognition. “I take my power by focusing on the task, and being an example of not judging people for who they are, but for what they can do,” she said.
Panelist Mike Schindler then asked: “I’d be curious to know if you see racism across all skin colors or just one?”
“It exists everywhere,” responded Crank. “No community or group is sheltered. Racism and racist acts are everywhere; they need to be acknowledged and dealt with.”
Asked panelist Diane White, who currently serves as president of the Edmonds School Board: “I’d be curious to know whether as a black woman in Edmonds you have ever felt targeted by racism?” Crank responded that there have been a few incidents, including a time when someone in a car yelled the n-word at her while driving by in Edmonds. Overall, however, she feels the community has been welcoming.
The next two-minute statement was delivered by panelist John Rogers.
“I want to speak to the white privilege thing,” he began. “I’m an old white dude and I play in a band with black musicians. No one wants to admit they’re a racist, and it’s often very subtle. Some of my bandmates have told me that they’ll walk into a store and feel that people are following them around. That makes me sad.”
“I’d be curious to know how you support your African-American friends?” Crank asked. Rogers responded that he goes up to his friends and “put my arms around them.”
Panelist Allen Belton, who is also black, then asked, “I’d be curious to know what it feels like to be privileged.” Rogers shared that it means he doesn’t have to be always checking his environment for threats, and can go about his business without people bothering him or putting him down.
The final two-minute statement was provided by panelist Diana White.
“Racism is absolutely as American as apple pie,” she said. “As in indigenous person, it feels like we’re invisible at times. I guess the racism is more subtle than with African-Americans, but we’re still automatically labeled. As a child in school I was made fun of for being Indian, despite my relatively white skin. I think we have a long way to go.”
White was asked: “I’d be curious to know how you see that racism has affected native students in our schools,” to which she responded that many do not graduate on time, have lower grades, experience more health problems, homelessness and poverty.
With the formal panel session over, Jim Henderson asked the audience to find someone they don’t know and talk for five minutes about reactions to what the panel discussed. Lively conversation ensued throughout the room, until Henderson called time and asked if any from the audience would like to share what they discussed with the larger group.
The session ended with Henderson giving panelists and audience members the chance to thank one another for the afternoon’s discussion.
The expressions of gratitude were profuse, but none more heartfelt than that given by panelist Allen Belton.
“I’ve got two thank you’s,” he said. “The first to Alicia Crank. It’s so great to hear and see an example of how far we’ve come. Next to John Rogers. Thanks so much for identifying with your brother by putting your arms around him. We are all so much more alike than different We can even share organs, man!”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel
Publisher’s note: A third 3 Practices will be scheduled in the near future. Watch for an announcement soon of date, time and place.