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The Garden Home Community Library will host 'Depolarizing Conversations About Race' on Saturday, Feb. 26, via Zoom.

COURTESY PHOTO: WASHINGTON COUNTY COOPERATIVE LIBRARY SERVICES - Garden Home Community Library, located in Beaverton, is a member of the Washington County Cooperative Library Services.

Garden Home Community Library will host a free virtual workshop on Saturday, Feb. 26, called "Depolarizing Conversations About Race."

The skills workshop will be led by Braver Angels, a national nonprofit organization that promotes conversation across political divides. Braver Angels created the program — and organizes the same workshop nationwide — and the library signed up to host its own.

The intent of the workshop is to improve the culture of conversations about race, according to the library's website, and "provide a constructive alternative to the polarized and judgmental exchanges that dominate our current discourse."

While anyone can participate, the workshop is aimed toward white people — specifically white people who are concerned about problems with race in the United States and want to communicate more constructively about race and public policy.

Heather Waisanen, Garden Home's adult services librarian, said she chose to host the workshop because it's important for people — specifically white people — to talk about race, even if it makes them uncomfortable.

"It's a very divisive time, just politically and everything, so I think anything we can do to bridge those divides is a good thing to do," Waisanen said.

And everyone has room for improvement in these conversations, she said.

Braver Angels member Terry Busch, who will moderate the Feb. 26 workshop, said the nonpartisan organization leads these events to teach people how to engage with someone in a conversation — not an argument — and humanize the topics.

In a nutshell, the organization gets people to "listen, acknowledge via a paraphrase, seek permission to offer your perspective and do so with an 'as I see it' statement," Busch said, which allows both parties to explore and explain how they arrived at their perspectives.

In general, adults know how to communicate with one another, Busch said. Their brains have developed since childhood, they've acquired a lifetime of experience in social settings, and they have the language skills to explain and comprehend complex concepts.

"But when it comes to politics and certain subjects," Busch added, "we forget all about what we know how to do, and we start arguing, we get emotional, we get angry and we start making what I call unequivocal statements: 'This is how it is, and you're wrong.'" 

Waisanen said this is the second Braver Angels workshop she's hosted at the Garden Home Library, and she has also attended a "Depolarizing Conversations About Race" workshop on her own.

"I found it very inspiring, and the people I was in the workshop with, they were positive, happy — people felt good doing it," she said.

The virtual workshop, suitable for adults and teens, will go from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26. Registration is required.


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