CCR Coffee House tackles difficulties of internet dialogue

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race continued its Coffee House discussion series on Wednesday, April 18, at the Baird Community Center in South Orange, with residents and community leaders coming together to talk about how to discuss racial issues online. Broken up into groups, residents of all ages talked about how to deal with internet trolls, personal attacks and having constructive conversations about race on social media. They came together at the end to share some of their observations.

To kick off the event, CCR Vice Chairman David Harris quoted the First Amendment and spoke about toeing the line between attacking someone with different beliefs and having a constructive conversation online.

“It is not an offense of the First Amendment if we take free speech and try to control it,” Harris said at the event.

South Orange Trustee Deborah Davis Ford participated in the discussions and, after the small groups reconvened, she shared with everyone what her group had discussed. One point they discussed was the option to regroup if someone is engaged in a racially charged conversation online.

“One of the most important things to do when engaging online is to pause and regroup and be thoughtful,” Davis Ford said at the event. “Have good people address it so the negative voices don’t overwhelm and drown out the narrative.”

One point that Catherine Cronin shared from her group was that social media users should reflect on their own lives when having a conversation about race.

“We spoke a lot about using our own experiences to think about the person on the other side of the conversations,” Cronin said.

Photos by Amanda Valentovic