Via Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program

As someone working in the field of dispute resolution and committed to the importance of dialogue, I find it difficult to know where to go with the events in Charlottesville. There were actual neo-Nazis in Charlottesville participating in a rally in which someone was killed. The wrongness of white supremacist ideology is certainly not subject to discussion, so what would dialogue even entail? The violent rally and the beliefs expressed by its participants call for simple condemnation.

We must remember that this is not an isolated incident. The racism on display in Charlottesville has been with us all along, and the claims about American identity and heritage made by the far right are currently at the heart of our politics. The extremists carrying weapons and openly advocating white supremacy are distractions—albeit important, dangerous distractions—from the deeper issues running through American history that will continue to poison our politics in the absence of genuine dialogue. Can dialogue about our history accomplish anything? As a dispute resolution practitioner with a previous background as a historian, I remain hopeful, even if recent events give reason for cynicism.

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