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Reconsidering the Past?

By Blog Master
Posted: 08/23/2021
Notes By Sharon Jarrett

Dick Myers opened the meeting for discussion of any recent material the group had read.

The Atlantic, September, 2021 edition, was mentioned for two articles.  The first by Adam Harris, "This is the End of Affirmative Action" reviews the background of the Historic Black Colleges and Universities and funding.  The article is based on Harris' book, "The State Must Provide".  The second article by Wright Thompson is "His Name was Emmett Till".  This article discusses efforts by the Till family to mark the locations where the family lived and where Emmett Till died.  A participant will provide a link to the Jet Magazine article about the murder which was written at the time.

A participant noted that Mississippi has a different "feel" when you visit.  He was assigned to a military facility in Mississippi and noticed there was a very different feel between the base and town.

Noting that the two men who were tried for the Till murder were acquitted, a question was raised about what should be done  at the present time, about people whose past actions were viewed as acceptable but whose actions are now viewed as unacceptable.  Reviewing the historical record and reflecting on how you feel about the facts was noted as a starting point. It was noted that learning the history of any event or situation was important to understanding how that history is portrayed. 

A brief discussion of the recent decision by the Board of Directors at Caltech to remove Robert Milliken's name from the library, walkways and rooms followed.  Robert Milliken was Executive/President of Caltech from 1921 to 1945.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1923 and received many other awards over the years.  He served on the Board of Directors at Caltech after his retirement until 1953.  He was also an active and engaged member and supporter of the Human Betterment Foundation which advocated for eugenics.  

It was noted that being inclusive includes being inclusive of people's beliefs and opinions.  The concept of Compassionate Communication by Marshall Rosenberg was reviewed.  This work had been discussed at an earlier meeting.  Using this strategy the individuals in a conversation or event:

1.  Observe without generalizing
2.  Identify personal feelings and reactions
3.  Identify what is needed by the individuals
4.  Request the participants do something specific about the matter or event..

This raised a question to the group about how a recent interaction had been handled.  The individual was involved in a conversation with a long time acquaintance about when they first had an interaction with an African American that was in depth not just social.  In responding,  the pronoun "they" was used.  The member of the group was disturbed by this and noted it to their acquaintance who was defensive.  The question to the group was if saying this was "the right thing".  The group felt saying something was appropriate.  A participant noted that using "I" messages can help defuse defensive reactions.

A member reminded the group that Ibrahim Kendi recommends focusing on actions taken rather than what is said.  It was noted that if you allow yourself to focus on bad things as the picture, you lose the picture.Fin ally, it was noted that Nichols Kristoff has said 1,000 deaths is a statistic, but, 1 person is a story.

 The next meeting will be September 3, 2021 at 10am PST.
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