This evening, I watched an interesting piece by Noelle Walker of NBC5. In it, she asked people on the street something to the effect of, "How do we, as a society, have a conversation about race relations?"
There may not be a topic in public discourse today that is more volatile than race relations, but that doesn't mean we should shy away from the issues.
One of the main components of conflict management is being able to engage in conversations that may invoke high emotion and passionate anger. When having a difficult conversation, be prepared to be open to new ideologies. Engaging in conversations only to argue, or attempt to change someone else's mind, will only leave you spewing the same rhetoric back-and-forth, while accomplishing nothing. However, if you approach the conversation with a mindset of wanting to learn and understand, you will often find the person you're communicating with is much more open to real dialog. They will often let down their defenses and open up, which will create pathways for real progress.
It's also important to focus on engaging in active listening. When you actively listen, you're understanding what the other side has to say. It is very easy for people to engage in conversation waiting for their moment to counter, without ever really hearing what the other person is saying. Hearing the other person's perspective, asking clarifying questions, and trying to find empathy through understanding are the only way to engage difficult conversation.
If you are passionate about seeing real change happen in your community, then become active in the process. I have seen several different organizations, that are meeting in town halls and community centers, who are engageing in tough honest dialog. Being hateful is easy, remaining ignorant is comforting, but finding peace is possible. To quote the President of The United States, "We can do better than this. We are better than this."