We believe in a civility that invites constructive conflict, and gracious contestation-- a civility that sincerely seeks to understand and learn from one another in creating a just world. For some the word “civil” is code for suppression of other forms of expression, such as emotion (oft attributed as a gendered weakness), or anger (dismissive to persons who have long experienced social injustice). We believe that civil discourse does not mean an absence of conflict or an absence of expression of conflict. Indeed, we cannot arrive at creative or just decisions if we do not embrace our differences constructively. Civil discourse does mean that we approach conflict with grace and that we endeavor to respect those with whom we disagree.
Safety versus Comfort
Civil discourse does not mean that our discourse will never cause pain. Sometimes very meaningful conversations are so because they were painful to experience. But we do not seek to inflict pain on others when we approach them in the spirit of civil discourse. We seek safe spaces to communicate and acknowledge they are not always comfortable spaces.
Civil discourse means that there are ground rules. Together we create the standards for how we should engage with one another, recognizing that rules of engagement are an ethical exercise. For example civil discourse applies some of our core principles of good communication such as not name calling, mindful listening, and owning our positions.
We believe that being civil and politically correct are not one in the same. To be civil in conversations demands that we grant respect to the perspectives and interpretations of others, even if we cannot possibly agree with them. Political correctness does not seek to understand. It is not sincere. In contrast, we demand sincerity in the spaces that we create.
Civil discourse acknowledges many different sources, types of knowledge, and expertise. Civil discourse promotes equality in the expression of different perspectives, but that does not mean that all perspectives are equally valid. Through dialogic deliberation we are committed to negotiating this tension.
An Acknowledgement of Resistance
Civil discourse does not mean we discount discourses of resistance or anger as a way of moving society towards justice. We acknowledge a space for adversarial discourse in the context of a democratic society, especially as it has the power to give voice to the marginalized. That said, we seek equity for marginalized perspectives through our commitment to civil discourse that is not driven by resistance but by understanding and learning.
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