The Talking Cure
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With sympathy, humor, and good sense, Gross and the other participants would offer suggestions on how to handle each situation. The advice often drew from the group’s ground rules: Speak from your own experience. Be honest. Listen. It’s okay to make mistakes.
On several occasions, students took the advice, reporting on their experiences the following week. When that happened, “It was great,” says Gross. “When someone experiences racism, sexism, any kind of ‘-ism,’ speaking up gives that person their power back.
“It’s important for people to know that they don’t have to just let injustices pass by. Having that dialogue is important; it’s how people learn.”
Santiago was motivated to help run Intergroup Dialogue by a leadership conference he attended in Austria. On a field trip to Dachau, he was moved by a banner honoring “the forgotten victims”—the gays and lesbians who were murdered in the camp.
He says, “I try to remember that experience when we talk about ‘discrimination is real,’” —one of the working assumptions of the group. He thinks of it when someone tells him he’s making a big deal out of nothing. “Having your experience negated is … bad,” he says. Then he brightens. “But Intergroup Dialogue allows you to speak out against that.”