07/15/2013 05:10 pm ET Updated Sep 14, 2013

Conversation Starters for Dialogue on Trayvon Martin Case

Peaceful action is a powerful tool for change. Like many, many others, I was deeply saddened by the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. And like so many others of all races and religion, recognize that this time is an opportunity to create meaningful dialogue about race relations in our country. Those of us who have been on this journey for change recognize the power of telling our stories and listening to those stories for understanding rather than rebuttal. This kind of dialogue creates the kind of world where being an "other" is not defined as the problem.

I do not, in any way, want to simplify the complexities of the issues that need to be addressed to move us forward to a "post-racial society." However, I do know that creating a post-racial society is not a destination but rather a continuous improvement process. Reading through the thousands of comments to the many blog posts on the Trayvon Martin case, it is obvious that there is a huge gap in our understanding of the hard facts (observable, measurable behaviors) and soft facts (psychological behaviors and lived experience) of this case. To close that gap would require a few college degrees -- law, psychology, anthropology, sociology, education, to name a few. Yet, even without the degrees, there is an opportunity for conversations among individuals who cross racial lines to change the narrative on this decades-old topic. These conversations can be planned and organized or happen at the kitchen tables, or around the water coolers at work, or while the watching our kids play softball, or while waiting in line at grocery stores...

Through these conversations we have the power to move to another level of understanding, even ever so slightly... to move forward to better understanding and a shared vision of the "beloved community." A few conversations starters:

  1. What was evoked in you as a result of the verdict? What meaning did you make of that reaction?
  2. Has your life changed in any way as a result of the verdict in the case? If so, how? If not, why do you think that is so?
  3. Do others in your circle (family, friends, colleagues, co-workers) think the same way that you do about the verdict?
  4. Using a scale from 1-10 with 10 as the highest, what rank would you give the Trayvon Martin case in relationship to other issues being addressed in the United States? What informs your ranking?
  5. How long do you believe the impact of the verdict of this case will resonate in our society? Weeks? Months? Years? As long as the media keeps it alive?
  6. How would you define the problem in this case?

And most importantly... what do you believe we need to move toward better race relations in America? What are you willing to do to help make that happen?