The deliberation I chose to attend was on the topic of race and the stigma surrounding race. The way this group chose to format their talk was exceptional. A decent amount of people came- around 30 (mostly Penn State students). Since the audience was large, we were split up into two smaller groups to discuss the three approaches in our groups. The whole point of a deliberation is to be informed on a topic and then discuss it. This set up allowed us to do just that. Two group members were in charge of leading our group, for their individual approach. Looking back on the deliberation, I realize that there were no awkward pauses or extended moments of silence- the two leaders did a great job in asking relevant and interesting questions that would surely get responses from us and keep the conversation flowing.
For each approach, one of the two leaders of a specific approach was in charge of writing down notes. This person jotted down vital points made by audience members, and would often try to stimulate further discussion by asking questions built on that initial argument. I found that this group was especially good at coming up with questions based on previous comments to keep conversation going. This reminded me of a ‘World in Conversation’ I had gone to about a month ago. There were two moderators who similarly asked multiple intelligent questions to get us to think more deeply on the subject at hand. Both the World in Conversation and this deliberation resulted in a very productive talk that left me feeling like I want to change an aspect of our world.
The first approach was on education in America, and possible ways it contributes to racism. One of the points brought up by the group’s members was that often, history classes omit accomplishments made by non-whites. This ‘white washing’ of history often seen in pre-college education seems to contribute to superior ideals of whites. The second approach focused on the community we have at Penn State and what the university offers (ex: clubs geared towards a specific race, sororities/ fraternities, classes, etc). We commented on the fact that this strengthen the divide between different races, but that these organizations can also be a great place for people who have something in common to connect with, especially for international students. The last approach was on ‘safe spaces’. I felt that this was the least useful approach, as we ended up having a debate on what ‘safe spaces’ actually are, and this took the focus away from talking about race. I believe it would have been more beneficial if the moderators simply gave a definition on safe spaces before the group was free to converse.
I noticed that the majority of the audience was compromised of honors students, who were there because they needed to attend another deliberation. I wonder if our discussion would have gone as well if the audience was compromised of a greater ‘mix’ of Penn State students. There were also a few colored Penn State students, two of them being in my group. I am glad they were there, as their perspective on this matter was especially useful. The conversation would have felt a little less relevant without their presence.
Overall, I was very impressed with this deliberation, and I think the reason for this is due to the fact that they split us up into smaller groups, making it more open to discussion.