Credit: Suzette Brooks Masters, 2021. Banner in Black Mountain, NC

Non-Judgmental Listening and Story Sharing Changes Attitudes Around Contentious Issues and Heals our Divides

Ushering in a more just and inclusive America is a daunting prospect in a time of heightened conflict and division. Polarization creates incentives for each camp to hunker down, look inward, and activate its in-group or base. The self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing nature of this oppositional cycle makes it hard to transcend and see another path forward. So too does the in-group policing that creates the pressure to stay in a silo of the like-minded and avoid connecting with skeptics or those who hold conflicting views.

For the last twenty years, my mother has frequented a diner on the Upper West Side of Manhattan near her home. It’s called Cafe 82. Given the vast array of excellent eateries in the neighborhood, I was always puzzled by her devotion to this establishment, a modest one not known for its cuisine or decor.

Credit: Suzette Brooks Masters. Ebru (marbled paper) our chapter made at the Turkish Cultural Center.

A diverse sisterhood of strangers showed me how

Credit: Suzette Brooks Masters, Selma AL February 28, 2020

As we mark the the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I want to reflect on what I learned in the last year, about America and our legacy of racism, my own family history, and the power of stories.

Credit: Suzette Brooks Masters, looking up outside Montgomery AL right before lockdown.

I won’t lie. It’s hard to make a list of things to be grateful for with a pandemic raging, our democracy on the brink, deep divisions in our country, and an economy in distress. But I’ve spent so much time fretting in 2020 that I feel the need to practice gratitude.

A small town newspaper begins a community conversation about a path forward

I am sure many of you, like me, are worried about the state of our nation. The intense polarization, the othering and dehumanization of our opponents, the assumptions we make about how our opponents perceive us and what they’ll do to us and to our country if they win, and the incessant drumbeat of information (true and false) are both exhausting and frightening.

Celebrate the little things when big things loom large, but add a shot of radical honesty.

To celebrate or not — that is the question.

I just had a birthday — not a big one, the kind one fusses over, but one nonetheless. And for the last 10+ years I’ve been marking my late September birthday with a gathering of dear women friends based in the New York City area. We range in age from our early 30s to our early 70s. We’re US-born and foreign-born. We’re of all faiths. Some of us have kids, some don’t. We’re highly educated and lean progressive. We’re privileged. We are doers and thinkers.

Credit: Suzette Brooks Masters

Lessons from two pivotal immigration moments of the 20th century

For supporters of immigration and immigrants, crossing the pandemic portal requires a strategy reset, one that prioritizes gaining new supporters in a critical segment of American public opinion and avoids unforced errors.

Suzette Brooks Masters

I think about how to strengthen our pluralistic democracy, make it truly inclusive, and ensure that it leaves nobody behind.

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