News

Groups to kick off three-part series on healthy dialogue with talk on political polarization

Organizers aim to make sure participants don't get 'drowned out or disregarded'

Three community organizations in Palo Alto have come together to create a series of events that aim to promote healthy, responsible and inclusive political dialogue.

University AME Zion Church, the city's Human Relations Commission and the League of Women Voters of Palo Alto are set to host "Bridging the Divide: How to Have Better Political Conversations" this Wednesday, where guest speaker Dr. Robb Willer, director of the Polarization and Social Change Lab at Stanford University, will lead a discussion about polarity and how to help people with opposing political views communicate more effectively. Willer is also a professor of sociology, psychology and organizational behavior at Stanford and co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society.

"Our goal is to create a space for people to have a voice, and to have it in a healthy, responsible way in the community where no one gets drowned out or disregarded," said the Rev. Kaloma Smith of University AME Zion Church.

He added that a number of community members who fall more toward the conservative side of the political spectrum feel "ostracized and marginalized" because they are a minority in their views. As such, the organizing community groups set out to create an opportunity for all views to be welcomed and heard.

For this series, organizers wanted to bring in experts on specific subject matter that have clear, scientific and practical ways of dealing with some of the complex issues they will be discussing, according to Smith. "What we're looking for here is not people that have a feel-good story, but people that have some real research and some real investment in the idea of what it means to be a healthy community and dialogue," he said, noting that Willer's expertise makes him a fit to kick off the series.

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The organizers plan to gauge the community's needs during the first event and use the feedback they receive to guide the direction of the next two, according to Smith. "I think it's irresponsible to have a community discussion without community input," he said, noting that the topics of future events have not yet been decided and could range from politics to ethnicity, race or bias, but all of them will follow the theme around the concept of having dialogue in a healthy way.

"My hope is that this becomes something of a growing place for our community, to develop deeper ties and deeper understandings for community in the long term," Smith said.

The free event is set for Wednesday, Sept. 18, 7:30-9 p.m. at University AME Zion Church located at 3549 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. More information is available at eventbrite.com.

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Groups to kick off three-part series on healthy dialogue with talk on political polarization

Organizers aim to make sure participants don't get 'drowned out or disregarded'

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Sep 17, 2019, 5:25 pm

Three community organizations in Palo Alto have come together to create a series of events that aim to promote healthy, responsible and inclusive political dialogue.

University AME Zion Church, the city's Human Relations Commission and the League of Women Voters of Palo Alto are set to host "Bridging the Divide: How to Have Better Political Conversations" this Wednesday, where guest speaker Dr. Robb Willer, director of the Polarization and Social Change Lab at Stanford University, will lead a discussion about polarity and how to help people with opposing political views communicate more effectively. Willer is also a professor of sociology, psychology and organizational behavior at Stanford and co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society.

"Our goal is to create a space for people to have a voice, and to have it in a healthy, responsible way in the community where no one gets drowned out or disregarded," said the Rev. Kaloma Smith of University AME Zion Church.

He added that a number of community members who fall more toward the conservative side of the political spectrum feel "ostracized and marginalized" because they are a minority in their views. As such, the organizing community groups set out to create an opportunity for all views to be welcomed and heard.

For this series, organizers wanted to bring in experts on specific subject matter that have clear, scientific and practical ways of dealing with some of the complex issues they will be discussing, according to Smith. "What we're looking for here is not people that have a feel-good story, but people that have some real research and some real investment in the idea of what it means to be a healthy community and dialogue," he said, noting that Willer's expertise makes him a fit to kick off the series.

The organizers plan to gauge the community's needs during the first event and use the feedback they receive to guide the direction of the next two, according to Smith. "I think it's irresponsible to have a community discussion without community input," he said, noting that the topics of future events have not yet been decided and could range from politics to ethnicity, race or bias, but all of them will follow the theme around the concept of having dialogue in a healthy way.

"My hope is that this becomes something of a growing place for our community, to develop deeper ties and deeper understandings for community in the long term," Smith said.

The free event is set for Wednesday, Sept. 18, 7:30-9 p.m. at University AME Zion Church located at 3549 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. More information is available at eventbrite.com.

Comments

Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 8:19 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 8:19 am
15 people like this

This is definitely something needed around here.

Diverse political leanings and different opinions on almost anything should be something that can be discussed in a healthy society and should be a strength, not a weakness. We should learn to listen before arguing back. We should listen in case we learn something new. We should listen and look for where we can find agreement. We should discuss and then agree to differ, and move on.

Difference of opinion does not constitute hate speech. People have different opinions because of many reasons in background and ideas. We are stronger if we think independently rather than following without question.

I particularly wish teachers in our schools would stop it with their political agenda and allow students to think for themselves. We should be teaching our young people how to think, not what to think.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 12:01 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 12:01 pm
2 people like this

>> For this series, organizers wanted to bring in experts on specific subject matter that have clear, scientific and practical ways of dealing with some of the complex issues they will be discussing, according to Smith.

I hope for their success, but, they should be careful regarding what they are expecting. A certain political party under its current leadership is all-in on Right-Wing-Authoritarianism. For those who lean heavily towards an RWA orientation, freedom, science, and pragmatic policy debates are the problem, not the solution. See, for example, how the process worked in Hungary: Web Link


Pat Burt
Registered user
Community Center
on Sep 19, 2019 at 12:19 pm
Pat Burt, Community Center
Registered user
on Sep 19, 2019 at 12:19 pm
10 people like this

It was a great event with over 100 attendees. Dr Willer gave a great talk with thoughtful responses to a lot of questions. Pastor Smith and Willer then held an entertaining and informative panel discussion.
Thanks to the AME church, the LWV and the city’s HRC for hosting it. We need more of these discussions.


Palo Alto Is Pseudo Liberal
Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2019 at 1:39 pm
Palo Alto Is Pseudo Liberal, Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2019 at 1:39 pm
9 people like this

From the PA Weekly...

>> "He added that a number of community members who fall more toward the conservative side of the political spectrum feel "ostracized and marginalized" because they are a minority in their views."

Palo Alto is an illusion. Though the most outspoken are of liberal mindsets, there are many conservatives in the community who support the Republican Party, POTUS/45 & a conservative SCOTUS.

We just let the outspoken left have their way because there is no point in debating horse feathers and besides, many of their ideas aren't fiscally practical anyway so why even bother?

The typical Palo Altan is supposedly liberal on social issues but conservative when it comes to defending their various NIMBYisms...and most Palo Altans worship the dollar sign as much as Warren Buffet.

Many of the left-leaning outspoken are imitation pearls at best.

Many of the silent Palo Altans are of the Rand Paul school of thought...socially moderate (to a certain extent) but unwilling to justify wasted taxpayer dollars on liberal folly.

Palo Alto was a more enjoyable city in reside in when there were less diversity issues as well as contrived community neuroses over various public education mandates. Over time things got way too PC.

Stanford still called themselves the Indians back then and Sequoia had the Cherokees...it was no big deal as no one took it personally.








parent
Gunn High School
on Sep 19, 2019 at 3:45 pm
parent, Gunn High School
on Sep 19, 2019 at 3:45 pm
11 people like this

How is it possible to have a healthy political dialogue on subjects like white supremacy and white nationalism?


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 5:52 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 5:52 pm
4 people like this

Posted by parent, a resident of Gunn High School

>> How is it possible to have a healthy political dialogue on subjects like white supremacy and white nationalism?

I know what you mean, but, for example, in a related policy question, we could have a rational debate on immigration. The US has had almost-free immigration at various times in its history, and very restrictive immigration at other times. Some people did benefit from that, others were hurt by it. Some "libertarians" support mostly-free immigration. Historically, many labor groups opposed it because they felt that immigration hurt the working class. Lots of issues involving immigration can be discussed in a cool, calm, rational way. People can favor very-limited-immigration on rational grounds without being white nationalists. OTOH, immigration policy really isn't what the great orange-haired leader is about, anyway. The appeal is directly to the RWA id, and, is using white supremacy and white nationalism to advance a personal political agenda.

So, the purpose of dialog would be to foster understanding via rational policy debates. Some people who find themselves pushed into a particular political camp would welcome a rational policy discussion. Some, but, not those people who directly support Right Wing Authoritarianism for its own sake.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 6:43 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 6:43 pm
7 people like this

When people start asking questions starting with terms like "white supremacy" and "white nationalism" we see part of the problem. These terms are thrown about and really they are undefined and quite possibly undefinable.

Better questions would be "how can we look at a problem such as immigration without making it about race?" and "how can we help those farther down the income scale feel that their lives have potential?"

Tribalism and blame, inflammatory terms, finger pointing and anything that is divisive language does not move a discussion forward. In fact it closes it off altogether.

Personally, I don't really care how people vote but I do like to make things better for everyone but as soon as the finger pointing and tribes are incorporated it tries to make sides out of issues where there should not be sides.

It is no wonder that people prefer to remain anonymous when commenting here. However, saying that, I wish the moderators would not close discussion or delete portions of valid comments when discussion is polite and meaningful. I have no objection to comments being deleted when they are disrespectful to another commenter and start using discriminatory language, but the delete button is often just a method to prevent useful debate, in my opinion.


parent
Gunn High School
on Sep 20, 2019 at 8:06 am
parent, Gunn High School
on Sep 20, 2019 at 8:06 am
24 people like this

White supremacy is not the same as immigration. White supremacy has a huge impact on non-white US citizens. Are we just supposed to shut up and take it until the next President is elected?


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 9:02 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 9:02 am
6 people like this

I think the previous angry post shows why talks and sessions like this for adults are necessary. If parents are not able to talk about things in a clear, calm manner then how will the next generation learn to think for themselves on deep matters and learn to see that there are more than one side to most issues.


Home of Vanilla Extract
Gunn High School
on Sep 20, 2019 at 9:32 am
Home of Vanilla Extract, Gunn High School
on Sep 20, 2019 at 9:32 am
10 people like this

> When people start asking questions starting with terms like "white supremacy" and "white nationalism" we see part of the problem

The world clarifies that White Supremacy IS a problem.

> I think the previous angry post shows why...

We see why discussion rarely works with someone who doesn't see reality. Angry? Sheesh.


//////


@resident: Do you feel that "white supremacy" and "white nationalism" (your quotes) are a problem in America today?

Simple question. Yes or no.




Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 20, 2019 at 9:34 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Sep 20, 2019 at 9:34 am
6 people like this

A major issue for the Bay Area is the media and press - San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, and smaller local papers. Most are using opinion pieces from the Washington Post which uses hyperbole to the extreme which has no relevance to reality. Note that the LA Times has a more measured discussion - possibly because the owners of that paper are not fans of CA's governance.

Note the comment above on White Supremacy. A throw-away comment to stifle any actual discussion on policy. Fact is that T has provided more job opportunities to blue collar workers. And that is recognized by those who have benefited from opportunity center funding. The US is Western Civilization vs African Civilization and Asian Civilization. You can read what is going on across the world in the papers so no secrets there. We do not have to pretend we are some form of governance that is not part of the model we were developed on.

As to immigration the major peaks of immigration were directly the result of major wars that the US participated in, or other wars in Europe and Asia. I have relatives who came as a result of the Franco-Prussian war - 1870. France vs now-Germany over possession of the Alsace-Lorraine region. Note that western Europe was in continual war and disruption within it's self and the colonization that they pursued around the world.

Subsequent to the end of WW2 many attempts to have each individual country function within to end colonization and subservience to other countries. That is still a position in process. The point being that given what we know today and the ability to access information each country needs to step up to normal governance, as opposed to off-loading it's citizens onto other countries. And the citizens of each country need to step up and challenge their countries governance to deliver basic necessities regarding education, health care, and economical opportunity.

The planet is big, and each land mass has it's own benefits and problems. Each continent is unique as to it's social and government functions.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 10:00 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 10:00 am
4 people like this

Vanilla

To answer your question I will say first that the quotation marks were in response to someone who posted about them earlier.

Secondly I will say that when I google the terms I find lots of angry articles but no sane and sensible definitions. I don't think a sane and sensible definition exists.

Now to answer your question, I will say "no" because really I don't understand the question.

If you can ask me something simple I will respond.

If you mean something along the lines of "Is there a problem with white people being racist in this country?" I will answer "no". If you mean something like "Do many people assume all white people in this country are racist just because they are white?" I will say "yes, that is a big problem".

Just look at the problems with Trudeau in Canada. 20 years ago dressing for a costume party was not considered racist. Now it is. He has to apologize. Should all of us need to apologize for something we did in our youth which was perfectly acceptable then but is now considered racist? These are serious issues, and angry responses are not sensible debate.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 10:07 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 10:07 am
2 people like this

Resident 1

Thank you for your informed and calm comments.

I think that one of the problems is that the term immigration covers too many different scenarios.

Should we talk about illegal immigration, refugee immigration, temporary immigration, etc. and put them under the same description? There are many types of immigration and should we treat them all the same? Of course for many of us, we are not native north americans so to some extent we need to define how many generations of immigration we are talking about too.

We also need to look at things like anchor babies and birth tourism and see exactly what is happening too. Web Link

As an aside, the present UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is American born and renounced his citizenship. So it is true to say that many do not keep their US citizenship just because they happen to be born here.


Home of Vanilla Extract
Gunn High School
on Sep 20, 2019 at 11:19 am
Home of Vanilla Extract, Gunn High School
on Sep 20, 2019 at 11:19 am
10 people like this

> Do you feel that "white supremacy" and "white nationalism" (your quotes) are a problem in America today?

Answer: "I will say "no" because really I don't understand the question"



Thank you for your honesty. We look forward to your coming back when your understanding of the issue is sufficient to contribute to the discussion.




Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 20, 2019 at 11:58 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Sep 20, 2019 at 11:58 am
4 people like this

Have to note here that people are cherry picking history to suit their points of view. NPR (KQED) had a great program on African Civilization - a 6 hour presentation that is available by CD on their web site. Africa is the second biggest continent on the planet. It is designated as the location where the human being developed. Centuries upon centuries of evolution - a lot of which included one tribe capturing another tribe and using them as slaves to build tombs, excavate for minerals (jewels), and when they started interacting with the Europeans sell slaves to them.
This whole dynamic was on-going when they started venturing across the ocean to new areas. They did not get to North America until about 1500AD. The European colonists then brought slaves to grow crops, row boats, etc. Any argument that slavery started in America is not historically correct. In fact America is where slavery ended.

Africa today is made up of countries that want their identity in the United Nations, as do all of the countries. Each wants their own separate identity in the UN. If that being the case then they have to meet the requirements of being a member of the UN and provide the basic necessities for their citizens.

That includes the Central American countries that have citizens that have to take control of their government.
Check out NPR's library of CD's which have historical content that takes you out of the narrow vision that is being pushed today.


kidding?
Registered user
Southgate
on Sep 20, 2019 at 12:45 pm
kidding?, Southgate
Registered user
on Sep 20, 2019 at 12:45 pm
18 people like this

@ Resident,

'Better questions would be "how can we look at a problem such as immigration without making it about race?"'

Really? How is it NOT about race? Are we building a wall along the northern border? Has our president not labeled the people fleeing violence from the south (who all happen to be brown) as rapists, murders, and gang members? Of course its about race. And herein lies the problem...


Geese
Mountain View
on Sep 20, 2019 at 1:31 pm
Geese, Mountain View
on Sep 20, 2019 at 1:31 pm
3 people like this

@kiddong? I’m, maybe you haven’t noticed but there aren’t thousands pouring over the border illegally to the north? I continue to be fascinated by the insane number of racist comments coming from what is supposedly
The tolerant left!


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 2:08 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 2:08 pm
Like this comment

Vanilla.

I was about to say something similar to Geese above.

Your definition of immigration, or at least what you wish to discuss, is about the type of illegal immigration coming from the southern border and why a wall with Canada is not being discussed. As far as I am aware, there is no problem with people entering the country from the North and Canada is not letting people en masse pass through so that they can enter the country illegally. Looking at the problem historically, I think there was a case that in the past, Vietnam era, there were those attempting to gain entry into Canada from the United States to avoid the draft. Now whether that was a just reason is not part of this particular discussion, but would Canada have been wise to build a wall then may be.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 2:09 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 2:09 pm
Like this comment

Sorry, that last response was replying to Kidding, not Vanilla.


Home of Vanilla Extract
Gunn High School
on Sep 20, 2019 at 2:19 pm
Home of Vanilla Extract, Gunn High School
on Sep 20, 2019 at 2:19 pm
2 people like this

@resident

I understand. Remember, this thread is about political polarization, not immigration.

Once you admitted you don't think there is white supremacy/nationalism in America, it's easy to bypass your other feelings involving race, justice, immigration, etc.. (since you can't see white supremacy in today's America, you've told us you have blinders on anyway, or a more serious issue.)

Just curious: do you think racism is a problem in America today?


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 2:36 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 2:36 pm
1 person likes this

Vanilla,

Not as bad as it used to be say over 50 years ago, and from some sections of the community it is probably so today. I don't happen to know anyone I consider racist, but I do happen to see a lot in the media trying to make it so.

Trudeau is a good example. I don't think he is racist, I don't agree with a lot of what he says, but I don't think he is racist. He did a few things 20 odd years ago that were not considered inappropriate then, but are now. The fact that they are now not appropriate means that he should not be doing them now and as far as I am aware, and the media is aware, he isn't doing that sort of thing now. The fact that he did them in the past when it was not inappropriate does not make him racist then, or now. If he were to do them now then that would be unwise as he would be considered racist now, regardless of whether or not he is.

The thing about racism is that its definition keeps changing. What it was 50 years ago is not the same as what it is now. In fact, it is probably true to say that some of the things we all do today, may be considered inappropriate in the future. Racism today seems to cover things from wearing coolie hats, to discussing knitting and I believe watermelons. I actually get lost trying to follow it all, which is probably a wise thing to do.

I call racism treating people differently because of their ethnic heritage. What is your definition?


undecided
Southgate
on Sep 20, 2019 at 2:50 pm
undecided, Southgate
on Sep 20, 2019 at 2:50 pm
Like this comment

@Resident, just curious whether your above equates race with ethnicity.


Geese
Mountain View
on Sep 20, 2019 at 2:57 pm
Geese, Mountain View
on Sep 20, 2019 at 2:57 pm
4 people like this

@Home, how about this? Is there racism in America? Yes, there’s racism everywhere and always unfortunately will be. However I also believe the left is using it as a straw argument to promote an agenda and in actuality are making it WORSE. Most of us just want to look at people without concern or care for color. We all bleed red.


Home of Vanilla Extract
Gunn High School
on Sep 20, 2019 at 3:05 pm
Home of Vanilla Extract, Gunn High School
on Sep 20, 2019 at 3:05 pm
Like this comment

> do you think racism is a problem in America today?

[Portion removed.]

You are awesome - in that you save me personally a lot of time. Seriously, what value should I assign to any response from a person who doesn't see white supremacy or racism in today's America?

> What is your definition?

I'm good with Oxford: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.



Last question: what value would you assign to the opinions of an individual who has shown you they can't see the obvious?



Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 20, 2019 at 4:38 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Sep 20, 2019 at 4:38 pm
4 people like this

If a person travels to Asia - which has a larger population than the US overall, and then tries to live and work there they will be noted as non-Asian. If a white person goes to South Africa and tries to buy property they will definitely run into problems. South Africa is in a anti-colonist reaction period. Africa overall is in a anti-colonist reaction period. One could say that the population of Africa the continent is larger that the population of the US. Any point of view is specific as to where you are at any point in time.

If you go to Mexico and try and buy property you will find out that your ability to live and buy property there has definite limitations imposed by their laws.

Your Central American states have had wars with each other regarding one trying to immigrate into the other and take jobs from the local residents. They discriminate by Indian tribal backgrounds.

If you look at the whole planet then it has definite racial types in the various regions. The problem is trying to ignore the planet as a whole to make an argument about your specific city or state. Your specific state is not the world. It is the end result of the groups of people that have immigrated there. And as immigration takes place groups tend to go where their previous country specific people have already gone and set up businesses. That is what people do. Humans are tribal people. They have been from the start of time.

If you want to make a political argument then HRC killed herself by calling middle America Deplorables. She obviously sees herself as a specific tribe.


Home of Vanilla Extract
Gunn High School
on Sep 20, 2019 at 4:41 pm
Home of Vanilla Extract, Gunn High School
on Sep 20, 2019 at 4:41 pm
Like this comment

[Post removed.]


Cone of Silence
College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2019 at 6:10 pm
Cone of Silence, College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2019 at 6:10 pm
2 people like this

Deflection of topic to immigration.

That's why you can't have a discussion with racists and supremacists.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 6:17 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2019 at 6:17 pm
Like this comment

Vanilla.

Race / ethnic heritage

I choose my words carefully because quite often the reader (or listener) may look at these words differently.

As an example, some may say that European race is the same. That can be similar but there are definite differences between say French and German, or even English and Irish, but those who are one or the other will see differences to the extent that they cannot be classed as the same. Likewise, African American and say Caribbean Black are very different in heritage although they may appear to be the same to some people. Therefore I think ethnic heritage is a better word.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 20, 2019 at 6:31 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Sep 20, 2019 at 6:31 pm
2 people like this

My son once tried to get into Canada because there was an IT job there. He ran into a paper nightmare and the company that hired him had to intervene. Sorry - every country out there is protecting it's borders. And every country has strict regulations as to who is in the country at any time.

So why do people have a problem with the US exercising the same rules that everyone else is?

The President is not a racist or a white supremacist. He has a job of protecting the laws of the US government, US budget, US interactions with other countries. That includes countries that try and off load their citizens on the US. Most of the heads of those countries are corrupt. His job is to run this country for the US citizens of this country - who ever they are. It is not his job to be a patsy for every little dictator who wants to push their own people out of the country.
His message is to work your county laws and jobs. Make your own country work.


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