I haven’t spoken much about what I learned during my time as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University last year, except for the unexpected (and unwanted) insight I gleaned from an up close and personal view of America’s health care industry, from the inside.
I’ve spent the past few months trying to reacquaint myself with the area, listening to people and studying up on a few issues.
During my stint in Boston, I was able to supplement previous learning about literacy and child development from top experts in the field, as well as child welfare law and how race and other factors compound the complexity of all of these issues in ways we often don’t grasp.
So save this date: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 28 at Christ Community Church in Conway where U.S. 501 Business splits off from U.S. 501.
I’ll be leading a community discussion about some of the most perplexing issues facing us today, particularly when it comes to education, the criminal justice system and police-community relations.
The discussion is titled, “When race isn’t about racism — but still potentially dangerous.”
The audience will be introduced to a growing body of neurological research that explains how our brains are developed, reshaped by our environment, and frequently processes information by putting it into categories in ways we seldom notice. It is in those processes the danger of race lurks in the 21st century maybe even more than it did in 20th century cross burnings.
I’ll explain how “toxic stress,” a coin termed by one of my Harvard professors, literally reshapes the brains of vulnerable youngsters, and the implications resulting from that reality.
That’s particularly relevant for teachers and other educators. We’ll also explore research that explains why some students exhibit overly aggressive behaviors to fairly benign commands and why avoiding discussions about race hurt white students, and focusing on it too much — or too little — can be harmful to black students.
Other things we’ll touch on include data that suggest that what is often termed racial bias stems from undetected depression, or depression-like symptoms in police officers and teachers and sometimes results in disparate treatment of black youth.
The hope is that this will be the start of a series of more tailored-discussions — for schools, police departments, churches, lawyers, businesses, etc. — and a pursuit of solutions that goes beyond the rhetoric-fueled talk we often find ourselves dealing with sensitive, complex problems.
On March 28, I’ll be making the case why it is vital for everyone to understand this issue better than they currently do, not because of a politically correct mandate, but because it will make their jobs easier and more effective, their relationships more rewarding.
It’s lost on a lot of people that we are about to experience the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, on April 9. The challenges that we face as a country, region and state have changed drastically. That’s testament to the progress we’ve made, which should forever be acknowledged.
But just as the principles that were planted then and are in full bloom now, that’s also true concerning the problems of today that have roots which stretch back to long ago.
On March 28, we’ll begin to unpack those problems to assure that those roots won’t stymie further progress.