“I’m trying to be the way I want the world to be”
One participant shared that she regards “leaning in” as a daily practice, as a way of acting in alignment with her personal values, regardless of whether it’s reciprocated by others. “But I’m careful not to overtax myself either. When I can’t do it, I can’t do it," she added.
"How do you lean into people who don't want to lean back?"
A student made the observation that while the people gathered for the facilitated conversation may be predisposed to listen to others, many people she encounters have little interest in engaging difference. "So how do you lean into people who don't want to lean back?" she asked.
"At a certain point, I feel like I have to prioritize my mental health."
"I think I used to feel like I had a responsibility to be open, to educate people, to not take offense, but I’m just not convinced by that anymore. I have to prioritize my family and my culture as opposed to prioritizing someone who just doesn’t really care about my feelings or genuinely respect how I feel about the situation,” one student said.
"I pick my battles"
"I don’t respond to everything, otherwise I would be a weeping, gaping wound all the time and it’s just not productive. Sometimes it can be very helpful to wait, to meditate and think about it, and then respond. If you have the luxury and opportunity to wait, sleep on it. And if you wake up the next morning thinking about it, find a productive way to engage that person." -Jayne Ifekwunigwe, Duke’s Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation
From right to left: Dean Valerie Ashby, Jayne Ifekwunigwe, and Brandon Hudson.
"Tell me a story"
“One thing I’ve really found helpful is to start a conversation with 'Tell me a story, help me understand how you got to this point.' It helps humanize the person.” -Joshua Lazard (MDiv), C. Eric Lincoln Minister for Student Engagement, Duke University Chapel
"Listen to understand, not to respond"
“One thing I’ve been working on is to listen to understand, not to respond. We’re trained to fight and defend our opinions. And even though that fits in the classroom, maybe it doesn’t really fit that well in real life.” -Duke student
"There’s nothing tying us together, like a common purpose."
"It’s much easier to talk with the people you’re going through the same things with. Not to say it has to be a sport, but maybe an organization. We’re all here at Duke, and we’re a diverse group, but there’s nothing tying us together, like a common purpose.” -Duke student
"We need the sense that we need each other"
“Higher education has the challenge of figuring out what makes a student body look at itself like members of a body? We need the sense that we need each other. Otherwise there’s really no need for me to engage in difficult conversations with you if I don’t feel like I need you as a person.” -Brandon Hudson, Director of Durham’s Urban Hope, 2006 graduate of Duke University (BA in African/African-American Studies & English) and a 2013 graduate of Duke Divinity School (MDiv)
Photo caption: Brandon Hudson greets Jayne Ifekwunigwe