Civility Week Audience Discusses How To Understand Others’ Perspectives


Zakkery Bologna, Staff Writer

“Uncomfortability is the seed for growth,” BCC Diversity and Inclusion Director Angela Kariotis, confidently stated to an audience of about 30 students, professors and administrators on Oct. 18. Kariotis was responding to an audience member at a Civility Week program who asserted that conflict is uncomfortable.
The Tuesday afternoon event, “PURPLE: America, We Need to Talk,” included the viewing of a short film and a community conversation aimed at “uncovering our humanity beneath our national conflict.”
The session focused on how to accept and respect principles that may strongly contradict one’s own views in hopes of cooling tensions between Americans that have been brewing for the past two election cycles.
“Pancakes are far superior to waffles,” Kariotis began as the audience chuckled.
But soon each person had to pick a side. The audience was asked to separate themselves into a physical spectrum ranging from those who consider pancakes superior to those who are sure waffles reign supreme.
The results showed that most of the younger attendees strongly favored waffles, while about six people strongly favored pancakes. Many of the older adults in the room remained neutral.
Then, a volunteer from each side was asked to defend the group’s position.
“Waffles are more versatile and go stale less quickly, which is good for when my 2-year-old decides to take 20 minutes before eating,” the pro-waffle delegate volunteered.
“OK, waffles may be better for small children,” the pro-pancake volunteer granted “but pancakes are just as versatile and easier to make.”
Kariotis highlighted that granting validity to the experiences of others was extraordinarily important to understanding a person’s views.

Following the introduction, the 22-minute documentary, “PURPLE: America, We Need to Talk,” by Resetting the Table was shown. Resetting the Table “works to build collaborative deliberation across political siloes in American life.” The documentary consisted of recorded discussions between community members of midwestern “purple” counties, which are defined by frequently flipping between Democrat and Republican.

The discussion organizers acted as interpreters to each side of the argument, partcticing what Kariotis would later dub a “Perception check,” where one repeats, in their own words, back to someone what they think the other person said, waits for confirmation or denial, to ensure that they properly understood the argument before responding to the argument.

“I’m just here for my class,” stated one student attendee, while another shared, “I don’t even know what this is about, if I’m honest.”
However, others who arrived early were truly looking forward to the experience. “It’s Civility Week, and I’m interested in the role everyone plays in our democracy,” said administrator Jake Farbman from the President’s Office.