Gang Rape and the Culture of Division

November 11, 2009


Two weeks ago, I had the honor of facilitating a dialogue on gender with my colleague Alison Streit Baron. All of us — the participants, Alison, and I were surprised to discover how rarely people talk about the life experiences they have had as a man or a woman and the perspectives they have formed related to gender. It was a powerful evening. And it illustrated the importance of what's at the core of our work at the Public Conversations Project: to replace conflict with community by helping people better understand the experiences and perspectives of others.

This capacity was sadly lacking among the young men in Richmond, California who participated directly or indirectly in the gang rape of a fifteen-year-old girl several weeks ago. The reports are sickening, and illustrate what happens when living, breathing, feeling human beings are turned into objects: they are attacked by some while others stand by and do nothing. It is polarization at its worst. Why are we surprised? So much of public life has been overwhelmed by the forces of self-interest, division, dehumanization and personal destruction with little or no thought about the consequences. Our connection to one another as human beings has become painfully weak.

Who will stand up to this deeply destructive polarization? We will. The Public Conversations Project builds and re-builds relationships. We create dialogues in which people can see, hear, and appreciate the full humanity of others--even those vastly different from themselves. As the news today demonstrates, the world needs an incredible amount of relational repair. You can help.  Check out the "Resources" section of this site. Download Constructive Conversations About Challenging Times: A Guide to Community Dialogue.  Host a dialogue in your neighborhood, or with your friends and associates.