UK’s Ethnic Dialogues Slated

Contact: Brad Duncan

 

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"We saw there were people who wanted a non-confrontational way to engage difficult social issues, to combat prejudice and racism, and to interact with individuals different from themselves but were hesitant to initiate conversation for fear of ‘saying the wrong thing.’ We hoped the dialogues would provide a way for individuals to learn to live more comfortably and effectively with diversity."

-- David Stockham,
former dean of students,
University of Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 6, 2004) -- On Feb. 10, the University of Kentucky’s Ethnic Dialogues kick off for the 11th time. The dialogues, formed in the spring of 1999, give people of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to discuss social issues in an open environment.

David Stockham, UK’s former dean of students, and John Lindsay, former president of the student group, the Alliance Working to Achieve Racial Equity (AWARE), developed the meetings after the two participated in Lexington's Downtown Christian Unity Taskforce's Race Dialogues. They decided to interweave AWARE programming with the dialogues’ format to create a continuing campus dialogue that would encourage more people to attend and attend regularly, Lindsay said.

"We saw there were people who wanted a non-confrontational way to engage difficult social issues, to combat prejudice and racism, and to interact with individuals different from themselves but were hesitant to initiate conversation for fear of ‘saying the wrong thing,’" Stockham said. "We hoped the dialogues would provide a way for individuals to learn to live more comfortably and effectively with diversity."

In a dialogue, a group of racially diverse people are led by two ethnically different facilitators in discussion about race issues. Members of the local community also participate in the dialogues, offering a “real world” wisdom by sharing their experiences with the groups. The groups meet one night a week for five weeks to discuss experiences, perceptions and beliefs about race relations and steps that can be taken to overcome problems. Topics include everything from affirmative action to xenophobia. Facilitators provide structure, but not so much as to keep the group from exploring any topic of interest.

Lindsay said the groups seek to hear all viewpoints, not just the politically correct ones.

"In fact, we expect that some people will say something that may be perceived as racist, but the structure of the program is set up to deal with such statements in a constructive way. We are cognizant that people have been taught to believe various things that have been proven to be untrue,” Lindsay said. “People are not looked down upon or berated for what they may believe. This is an environment that allows for the dissecting of widely-held beliefs, racial myths, and/or stereotypes that will, hopefully, eventually lead to critical thinking skills and better problem solving.”

The dialogues will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays Feb. 10 through March 9 and on Wednesdays Feb. 11 through March 10. Groups meet in the UK Student Center, and individuals who wish to participate can reserve a space anytime throughout the semester by filling out an application online. For more information, contact Stockham at (859) 543-8419, or contact Lindsay at (859) 252-7781.

“Put your toe in the water. The dialogues are not a painful experience,” Stockham said. “Most people come away with valuable insights and new friends.”


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