A new event series is committed to bringing together Mercerians with different viewpoints to find some commonality and understanding.
The Middle Ground event series is designed around the idea of radical empathy, which is the practice of actively working to understand the feelings and experiences of others, said organizer Jadon Murad, a Mercer University senior majoring in international business.
Middle Ground is named after a video series by the same name found on the Jubilee YouTube channel. Jubilee’s Middle Ground series “seeks to show that we as humans are capable of being united and finding our shared experiences,” according to its playlist description.
In the videos, people of opposing viewpoints come together to discuss their feeling about different statements.
Murad, director of Mobilize Mercer, which presents the events in collaboration with Real Talk, is using a similar format in Mercer’s Middle Ground event series.
The first event Jan. 18 in Willingham Auditorium focused on the state of politics in America. Attendees sat in the middle of their own row. When a statement — like “I am optimistic about the future of America” — was read, those who agreed moved toward the center aisle, and those who disagreed moved toward the outside.
Attendees were given a chance to share why they moved the direction they did. They also could respond using a mobile app, which registered and displayed attendees’ responses. A couple dozen people, including students and faculty, attended.
“At first it was hard to get different people to come up to speak, but then people got comfortable to go up and speak for themselves,” Murad said.
Dr. Ansley Booker, director of diversity and inclusion initiatives, attended the first event. She said people shared diverse viewpoints, and the format “curated a safe space to practice empathy and vulnerability during courageous conversations.”
Registration is now open for the next event, 7-9 p.m. Feb. 17 in the President’s Dining Room. The topic is Race and Economic Inequality.
The following event is Feb. 26 in the same location; time to be determined. That topic is Policing and Criminal Justice Reform. Registration will open one week before the event, and the link will be posted in the Mobilize Mercer Instagram bio.
Capacity for both events is limited to 40, and masks are required.
Shailey Shah, a senior majoring in biochemistry who is involved with Real Talk, said recent events in American politics have created division, and people are losing sight of the importance of empathy and caring for those with differing opinions.
She said she hopes Mercerians find Middle Ground as a space where they feel comfortable sharing their viewpoints.
“I want people to recognize that politics should not be polarizing but rather a back-and-forth conversation between people with different opinions, so together we can find the best method of action,” she said.