Columbia talks about race relations and unconscious bias

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COLUMBIA - People met to discuss race relations and unconscious bias in mid-Missouri on Thursday night.

The Diversity Awareness Partnership (DAP) of Columbia hosted the event called Listen.Talk.Learn: Dialogue Across Difference at the Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Regional manager of DAP Columbia, Nikki McGruder, said there are three important steps about the program.

"This event is centered around dialogue, a difficult dialogue. We call the program listen, talk, learn so if you think about it. You need to listen to what the concerns are, talk about them and learn from them," McGruder said. 

One objective of the event was to teach attendees the difference between dialogue and debate. 

"We talk about race, a very difficult topic for a lot of people, but we talk through it to have that dialogue and not debate about it. So it's not an I'm right, you're wrong, but a dialogue. We can listen and learn from each other," McGruder said.

Although a difficult topic, DAP Director of Diversity Training Kenneth Pruitt said it is an important one.

"Race is something that permeates so many different aspects of our lives. It impacts us from a micro level to a macro level and therefore, since it is so embedded it can become invisible. So to make those things visible and actually discuss them since it is something that we are uncomfortable with. It is worth it becoming comfortable to talk about so that's why I think it's important," Pruitt said.

The event had three key objectives: To learn the difference between dialogue and debate, gather facilitation tips and strategies, and figure out a strategy for answering difficult and polarizing questions about race, racism, and bias.

The DAP has been active in Columbia for 18 months and the meetings are free and open to the public.