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COLUMBIA - A community organization held a free class explaining local causes of racial disparity in Columbia on Thursday night.

Race Matters, Friends hosted "Social Studies for White Folk" in the Armory Sports and Recreation Center at 7:00 p.m. Tara Warne Griggs guided the class and explained data showing racial disparity in traffic stops throughout Missouri, including in Columbia. 

The NAACP previously issued a travel advisory warning in Missouri, citing a recent Vehicle Stops Report that showed a significant disparity rate for traffic stops between black drivers and white drivers.

Carol C. Brown, a volunteer with Race Matters, Friends, said the goal of the class is much bigger than explaining statistics.

"Our idea is that a lot of white folks think we had the Civil Rights movement, and everything got better," Brown said. "Recent events have proven otherwise. There's big racial divides. If we can all get on the same page, if we can learn a little bit about history, maybe we can show people what it's like to live in somebody else's shoes just a little bit."

Kristin Kopp, a faculty affiliate with MU's Black Studies Program, said non-traditional classes and discussions help generate conversations that are more progressive and effective.

"Fox News vs. MSNBC, Liberal vs. Conservative - it's not that," Kopp said. "These are completely different types of conversations. So when we go and talk to people in the community, they're not loaded questions with the expected answers we get from our cable news media."

Kopp said history is traditionally taught through a limited scope throughout the country, which uses European history as the base and start for history overall.

"It's part of a colonial mind set - the idea that everything starts in Europe and somehow gets transferred to everywhere else throughout the world through colonial migration," Kopp said. "We're not used to thinking about, or maybe we don't want to think about or it's dangerous to think about, all of the impulses that start elsewhere in the world and come into European space."

"For example, thinking about the black Diaspora," Kopp said. "In the United States, the black Diaspora starts with slavery. That means the entire history is one that's framed by victimization. When you expand African history backwards and Diaspora history backwards before the slave ships, it puts our slavery episode in a much broader context and removes that victimization frame as the only frame that's there."

Kopp said this world view has a larger consequence on society.

"I don't think there's a full enough vision of autonomy, agency, and humanity until you get that longer picture because our American history is frankly so bad," Kopp said. "It's just not a good way to frame the story of blackness, to start it with the slave experience, as if that were the entire frame of black history in the world."

Brown also said Race Matters, Friends plans to continue "Social Studies for White Folks" as a monthly event.

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