Every Tuesday, I join a dozen or so residents for coffee and conversation at a cozy, eclectic, and homey coffee shop in our Shaw neighborhood in St. Louis. We are a mix of ages, races, and genders and call ourselves the Touchy Topics Tuesday group.
We talk about race, prejudice, police relationships, stereotypes, discrimination and other touchy topics. We respect each others’ opinions and views and have learned to listen more deeply. We delve into topics in an honest and open manner.
For weeks now, we have been discussing Ferguson, the shooting of a black man in our own neighborhood by a white police officer, the Selma to Montgomery March for voting rights, and a growing awareness of our differing perspectives as white and black residents.
We sometimes feel powerless to bring about change. Do we have answers, solutions, and quick fixes? No.
Generations of prejudice, racial discrimination and misunderstanding won’t disappear overnight. The legacy of Selma settled into more civil rights and eventual complacency with a different status quo. Ferguson swept across the nation to make us realize that Ferguson is everywhere and is all of us, if we’re honest enough to admit inherited mindsets that would benefit from change and other outlooks.
As we near the end of Lent, Easter rises with new life, new growth, and a new work of mercy: listen with a compassionate and non-judgmental heart. I’ve learned to begin to understand different sets of values, rules for life, perceptions, and the effort it takes to try to see from another perspective that is just as real as mine.
The members of Touchy Topics Tuesdays continue to gather at Restituo, our favorite coffee shop, a place to restore, revive and learn. We share stories, hearts, and learn respect for each other. It’s a small, local start, but changing a few minds and hearts might be a healthy beginning.