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Police Brutality in America Teach-Out

Take Action in Your Own Context / Lesson 9 of 11

Have Discussions

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Engaging with others around the topic of police brutality is a way to bring other folks into the work of bringing about change. It may also help you clarify and strengthen your own ideas. These conversations can happen with anyone whether it’s your family and friends, co-workers, neighbors, people you encounter in day-to-day life, or on social media. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Listen first. It’s very natural for people to think about what we are going to say back to someone before they’re even done speaking. This means we’re often half listening. That’s only exacerbated when the person we’re listening to is presenting a point of view we do not share or do not understand. If you truly want to engage, start by listening and asking questions. Try to really hear the other person and understand what they’re saying before offering alternatives or defending your own view. 
  • Disengage when you need. Part of what could happen by staying curious and really listening is that you’re uncomfortable or hurt by someone else’s point of view. At this point, it may be best to disengage. You do not have to continue a conversation or defend your perspective if you feel the other party is not returning the respect of listening openly.
  • If you’re someone who has lived experience with police brutality and racism, these conversations may be re-traumatizing. Prioritize your mental and emotional safety, and choose when and how to engage with others. It is not your responsibility to educate others at the expense of your own mental health. 
  • If you’re new to thinking about these issues and you don’t have lived experience with police brutality and racism, you may feel unsure about how to have these conversations. 
  • Start by listening to and learning from people who have lived experience. 
  • Then, digest and discuss what you’re learning with folks who aren’t battling racism themselves. 
  • It is also important for you to speak up when you witness racism or hear comments you don’t agree with from people in your life. 
  • Remember that speaking up may feel hard and uncomfortable at times, but living with an unjust reality is harder. Having hard conversations is one way you can take on the work of change. 

Have Discussions: Resources

  • Demonstrating Effective Dialogue - members of the University of Michigan Program on Intergroup Relations discuss techniques for building effective dialogue on difficult subjects.
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