Brave Trainings, LLC
Promoting Authentic Social Justice Dialogue
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Respectful Debate is Possible

During this presidential election season, let us not forget our manners. Let us not forget our quest to live in a world where social justice, for all, is supposedly the goal.  If you know me well, you know I value and strongly stand by the idea that it is possible to have serious and thought provoking debate in a manner that is not disrespectful. Every time I facilitate a workshop on diversity and inclusion, I never go in with the goal of changing people. If I did, then I would fail every time. My goal is to engage folks in civil dialogue. I tell the participants, “we can completely disagree on something, but still walk away loving and caring for one another.” Call me naïve, but I think it’s possible if we choose to do it. 

When people get into the heat of their own opinion and lived experiences, they often forget that on the other side of that conversation is a human being with real feelings. We are not going to agree on everything and that is OK---sometimes. LOL. I'd like to believe that I have come to understand my world better because of the people I surround myself with. I have friends who are republican, democrat, conservative, and liberal.  All of them have diverse opinions of the world and they bring something valuable to the table. 

I learn something new every day from the conversations I have here on Facebook and in-person. I have engaged with people who know how to have respectful and impactful dialogue without "attacking" those who do not share their view. Now, I will not say that I am perfect at this, because everyone has an off day. However, I try hard to validate the opinions of others and also stay true to my beliefs. It is not necessary to bully folks or shut people down. 

With that said, I ask that we respect each other’s process and set an example of true dialogue. Just because YOU have come to your own understanding of how you view the world, doesn’t mean that everyone else has gotten there yet. I encourage folks, who do not know which candidate they will vote for and even those who do, to be well read on each candidate in order to make an informed decision that feels right for THEM. I value those who love Hilary and those who love Bernie. However, as you are advocating for why your candidate is the best, remember that everyone’s path to what they know for sure is paved with stories you may never know. 

Lastly, just because I talk about people of color (POC) a lot does not mean that I am a single-issue person. Therefore, telling me I should vote for Bernie because he speaks out for POC is to simplify my lived experiences and values. I also care about issues that impact womyn, the queer community, the trans community, veterans who have been disregarded by the government they fought to protect, people with a disability, people from a low socio-economic background, folks who fled their country in order to live without fear of death or persecution, and the list goes on. 

I may not know who I am going to vote for yet, but I won’t be bullied into choosing a candidate simply because someone else feels it’s right for me. I will continue to inspire and participate in meaningful, respectful, and authentic dialogue here on Facebook and in person. I hope you will join me in creating a brave space for folks to grow and learn.

Cornell F. Woodson