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On the Road to Racial Reconciliation

Valuing reconciliation is not the same as actively engaging in it.

Contact Theory proposes that if diverse groups spend extended time together, their intergroup conflict and the negative effects of racism and ethnocentrism will gradually decrease and possibly even disappear altogether. A theoretical way to explain what many of my students, clients, and colleagues had experienced over the years as they engaged with one another in extended positive contact was exactly what I had been looking for! Contact Theory was the key that unlocked the conceptual door of the Reconciliation Roadmap.

After I established Contact Theory as my theoretical foundation, the model continued to evolve, and my focus shifted toward practical application. When I was working as a consultant and developing my own curriculum for training, I identified specific characteristics and skills that indicate whether a person or group is actively engaged in reconciliation. Not all people have the same social skills and motivation to cross vast racial and ethnic barriers, regardless of any moral concern they might express. Valuing reconciliation is not the same as actively engaging in a process that requires commitment and sacrifice. I understood the need for people to interact in positive ways for an extended period of time, but I wondered how I might actually motivate people to do it!

Then I was introduced to Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy: an order of learning objectives within education. In Bloom’s classification system, learning at a higher level is dependent on having attained prerequisite knowledge and skills at a lower level. As these skills are achieved, the taxonomy clearly describes what the learner should be able to do as a result of having acquired certain skills. I applied the taxonomy to the Reconciliation Roadmap as a means of motivation and a rubric for development. Here are the key objectives this taxonomy helped me address:

  • describing what a reconciler should be able to know, feel, and do as a result of progressing through each stage of the model
  • listing the specific skills or metaskills that a person must develop in order to become an effective agent of reconciliation
February01, 2016 at 8:00 AM

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