Video: Hopes and Fears in a Covid-19 world (Toward Belonging series)

Event Recap

On July 16, 2020, we hosted our second  digital dialogue that is part our Toward Belonging initiative. The July webinar, "Hopes and fears in a COVID world" featured a conversation and new research about how the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deep fractures in societies across the globe. But in bringing much of daily life to a stop for millions, it has also shown us the power of community and solidarity at a local level. New connections have been made, and the possibility of change has come alive, even amidst tragedy and division.  

Participants in the event included:

Tim Dixon, Co-founder of More in Common, a social entrepreneur and economist who has helped start several social movement organizations around issues such as modern-day slavery, the Syrian crisis, the Colombian peace process, economic inequality, gun control, and civic participation; and,

Míriam Juan Torres, Senior Researcher, More in Common. Míriam has conducted field studies in West Africa and worked for UNHCR in Ghana and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia.

And responses and conversation with:

john a. powell, Director of the Othering & Belonging Institute and a Professor of Law, African American, and Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley; and,

Thomas Chatterton Williams, author of "Losing My Cool" and "Self-Portrait in Black and White. He is a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine, columnist at Harpers magazine, and a 2019 New America Fellow.

Details about this initiative and all events in this series at belonging.berkeley.edu/towardbelonging.

July 16, 2020 Transcript

Rachelle Galloway-Popotas
Good evening or good morning to all of you, wherever you're joining us from today.  My name is Rachelle Galloway-Popotas and I'm pleased to welcome you to our webinar today on behalf of the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley, where I work on the Toward Belonging Project. Toward Belonging is an effort of the Othering and Belonging Institute to expand our work outside of the United States and in Europe.

That's led us to working with a wonderful set of partners on whose behalf I also want to welcome you on behalf of More in Common Counterpoint U.K., Queen Mary University of London, and Sciences Po University in Paris.

Today's webinar is entitled Hopes and Fears and a COVID-19 World, when we were discussing the idea for this session, we talked about anticipating that there's going to be a fight to rewrite the story in a COVID-19 world and are working toward belonging is to ensure that this story is not one that is going to be claimed by the authoritarians or the far right.

We believe there is an enormous opportunity to write together what our new collective story can be and should be, and that the lens of belonging can be useful in helping to shape the next decade. So that's part of what this series will help uncover the possibilities and promise of belonging. So I want to introduce you to our speakers today. We have Míriam Juan Torres from More in Common, where she serves as global senior researcher. Miriam is a multidisciplinary researcher who has conducted field studies in West Africa and works for the UNHCR in Ghana and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia.

Rachelle Galloway-Popotas
And she's a lawyer in Spain. Welcome, Miriam. Also, for more uncommon, we have Tim Dixon, who's a co-founder of the organization. Tim is an economist and a longtime social entrepreneur who's led many successful campaigns and helped to found and build many social movement organizations that have made considerable progress in advancing the rights of refugees and migrants. Gun control and economic reform. Tim was also chief speechwriter to two prime ministers in Australia. So welcome to Tim,

Rachelle Galloway-Popotas
and Tim and Miriam, are going to be leading us in a presentation today on new research for more in common. And then we'll hear responses from and be in dialogue with our other two speakers today. I'm going to introduce Thomas, who's gonna be joining us in a few minutes. He's running a little bit late, but I'll go ahead and give you a little background on Thomas Chatterton Williams. He's an author, journalist and American cultural critic. Thomas is the author of the 2019 book Self-Portrait in Black and White.

Rachelle Galloway-Popotas
He's a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. A columnist at Harper's Magazine. A board member of the American Academy. And he was a two thousand 19 new American fellow and a Berlind prize recipient. So welcome to Thomas. And last but not least, we have john a. powell, who is the director of the Othering and Belonging Institute and professor of law, ethnic studies and American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and otherwise known as my boss.

Rachelle Galloway-Popotas
So good morning to john in California. Just a few questions, just a few details, we're going to be taking questions via chat. So if you're joining us via YouTube or Facebook Live, just drop your question or comment in this comment section and we'll be getting to those later on the conversation today. If you're joining by Twitter, you can tweet to at O and B Institute or at MIC underscore Global or just use the hashtag #towardbelonging and we'll pick up those questions and comments as well.

Rachelle Galloway-Popotas
So thank you to Daniel and Dwayne from We and Goliath who are working our tech today. And Sara, who's managing our social media. And I also want to thank on behalf of the Othering and Belonging Institute, the Open Society Foundations and the Gates Foundation for helping to support this work Toward Belonging. So thank you for spending time with us today. And I'll turn it over now to Miriam and Tim.

Tim Dixon
I've lost audio here. But can I get a thumbs up if I should be going?

Tim Dixon
Great. Thanks. And hopefully, we'll sort it out. Thanks so much, Rachelle. And it's great to join the conversation today where our stretching our time zones with Thomas from all the way from Paris to john with I hope a strong cup of coffee there in the early morning in the Bay Area. But it's an honor to join you for this conversation. And we're looking forward to a really rich conversation. The question that we're really asking ourselves today is, where are our societies now?

Tim Dixon
On the other end of the lockdown periods and as we're moving into this unusual shared experience that has disrupted the lives of billions of people across the planet. It's so unusual for humans to go through a shared experience like this, albeit one which exposes so many of the fractures of our societies and the inequalities in our societies.

Tim Dixon
And I sometimes wonder, you know, if there was a Martian or some outer space, creature was to land on Earth and place a billion listening devices on phones and tablets and our computers with all of our Zoom calls that we're having at the moment. And perhaps Google and Facebook and Apple and how they've already have done this. But if they were listening to our conversations, they probably would think that we as humans are incredibly dull because we're often having very much the same conversation about locked down, about our anxieties and fears and about face masks and sourdough and how unprecedented everything is.

Tim Dixon
So there's a little sort of Martian in my head in this conversation whispering to me how we want to have a fresh and original conversation, if we can. Not a familiar and predictable one, but I also know that's an ambitious goal. What we're grappling with today and what we're hoping to kick off with some of the insights from big research projects that More in Common has been doing is asking that question in a world that has felt increasingly fractious in recent years and societies that have tended to be so divided in recent times.

Tim Dixon
What is the experience of a pandemic like this and how is it affecting people's thinking, their experiences, their expectations for the future, the way they think about the state of their societies? It's obviously both a shared experience and a profoundly different experience at the same time. But it's so unusual for us as humans to go through shared experience across boundaries of countries and continents and all of the fractures within our societies. And I guess the question for us is, you know, on the other side of this or as we go through it.

Tim Dixon
Are we going to see more hate and more division or more breakdown or are we going to become more aware of each other and more committed to making our societies better and more inclusive and connected? And that's what we've been trying to research with project that we've got going, which is part of more in common stream of work that we do quite a lot of tapping into what the public mood is with conventional things like surveys, with major survey companies and also a lot of one on one conversations.

Tim Dixon
So my colleague, Miriam, [More in Common's] senior researcher, and I are going to provide some insights from a survey of 14,000 people that we've just conducted across seven countries where we're trying to take a temperature of our societies and where we are right now and what we can expect for the future. Our work, More in Common, is focused on countering the forces of division and hate and polarization forces that threaten cohesion in our societies and threaten the progress that societies have made towards pluralism and diversity and greater inclusion.

Tim Dixon
One of the questions animating the work that we have done early on was to ask why European societies were struggling to respond to the extraordinary refugee crisis triggered, particularly from the Syrian civil war in Syria in the mid 2010s, when Syrian and Russian forces were systematically bombing civilian populations and forcing them to flee the country. And there was no more obvious example of tremendous numbers of people being an urgent need of refuge. And yet there was such a populist uprising against the refugee arrivals into Europe.

Tim Dixon
And we were asked the question, why was that and why were our societies less resilient and less able to be welcoming to those who most needed refuge? When we had a post-war history of trying to have international agreement around working on the UN inclusive societies and the Geneva Convention around refugee protection and so forth. Once we started looking at that question, we got into more and more research around the underlying social psychology of what shapes different countries and peoples, different groups within societies, responses to the threat of the other.

Tim Dixon
And so we built a team of researchers. We got into a lot of social psychology, we brought in experts on conflict and political science and so forth to really understand those us versus them divisions and why people buy into those sorts of narratives. And along the way, we met john powell from what is now the Othering and Belonging Institute at University of California, Berkeley. And in john, we found a man of wisdom and experience whose journey had taken him to thinking a lot in these terms of how we move from othering to belonging and how the antidote to othering isn't to scream at others, but to bridge and to create belonging and that's really what has inspired our organization.

Tim Dixon
So this is what we're asking with our research is how we build pluralistic democracies that are moving towards greater belonging. And what we're going to do now is just to show some of the slides from this research that we've just been undertaking. And so here we have just an explanation of some of our segmentation studies that we've conducted in different countries around the world where we're understanding these issues through the lens of people's sense of identity, their core beliefs, their underlying values and how they relate to other people in their society. And we recognize all the limitations of this kind of research that you can differentiate populations by age, race and migration, background and gender and social class, region, political parties. And those differences can play smaller and greater roles in diverse societies according to the differences in those countries. But often we limit ourselves to only thinking about people through that lens of their demographics.

Tim Dixon
And one thing that we've tried to do is better understand people's worldviews and how they are different, how that affects the way that they see the issues around them. We've published national studies that look at populations through the lens of these core beliefs, and that work is helping us then to build programs where we're finding common ground and sometimes unexpected common ground between different groups. Some of that is to prevent further conflict and some of it is to build connection with connection hasn't been.

Tim Dixon
And that work is is happening, particularly in our countries of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This project that we're now going to discuss is across seven countries—France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the US. And we've only just completed the research in the last few days, a week ago. It looks at people's experience of coronavirus and the lockdown and then going to the aftermath of what people are thinking about for the future and around a range of issues.

Tim Dixon
So that gives sort of some some sense of where we're where we're going with this project. What I'd like to do now is to sort of jump in to what we're learning from this project. The purpose of it is to understand the state of public opinion in order to identify what opportunities there are in this moment and what risks there are. Partly we're sort of looking for with this research to work out can we establish an early, early warning system to see where narratives of division and hate and polarization are creeping into segments of the population in different countries?

Tim Dixon
And also, how do we find sort of common ground in an agenda around the future? So the first question to ask is really a look at where we are right now, and this is the striking thing, the striking story that that jumped out at us from this, the findings is that there is a real difference in the public mood in different countries, reflecting the way that societies have coped with the pandemic. So US and France, the U.K., Poland, there's a deep sense of disappointment, in Germany and the Netherlands there's more of a sense of pride. In individual societies, we see the dynamics of unity and polarization playing out differently in the US.

We saw what's been a general pattern, a big surge towards more of a sense of social solidarity. At the time when the lockdown first happened and people saw communities pulling together. But then as the sort of the sense of the failure of the response, particularly at the national level, to the crisis, and then a lot of the more the return of political polarization, we've seen the country basically get back to the point that it was at a month from the midterm elections, October of 2018, where 82 percent of the country feels that it's divided.

We asked these questions about what people's anxieties are for the future, because this sort of sense of polarization, division, the future is very influenced by what people are worried about.

And what we're looking at here is three quite strong senses of feelings of anxiety or sources of anxiety. Firstly, around health, the future waves of COVID, secondly around the economic fallout, which people are increasingly experiencing. And thirdly, around the sort of social polarization and division. And noticeably, for example, there you see the US being highest. But concern about division crosses all countries as well. We also asked a question about whether people are worried about the curtailment of their freedoms.

And that's something that came out, too, as a concern, not at the same level, but you'll see in the United States and Poland different reasons. The highest levels of concern. A broader question that we're asking is to unpack where people are at in terms of the are they open to change? Are they thinking more about the opportunity for change in this moment or do they want to return to where things were? Do they want to return to the security or the familiarity of the pre-COVID moment?

And the answer is a balanced answer. But overall, people are more in favor of change. And it's not so much an enthusiastic embracing the future, since it's more of a sense of the things that have emerged from this moment that we need to fix in our country. And now is the right time to fix it. And with countries where you've got a stronger sense of failure, you get a stronger sense of believing things to change. But one of the warning signs here is also strong majorities doubt that much is going to change after the pandemic is over.

Tim Dixon
So from there, what I'll do is pass over to Miriam to build into this analysis some more detail about what their appetite for change is really about.

Míriam Juan Torres
Thank you, team. And as Tim has said at the beginning of the pandemic, we saw us search in social solidarity. So we saw with the data in the United States when there was a moment in time when there was a greater sense of unity or a lesser sense of division. And we can see how this has been similar when it comes to perceptions of social solidarity as they regard to the UK.

Míriam Juan Torres
So we asked people whether they think that we look after each other or whether it's everyone for themselves. And we actually asked  this question in February and March, prior to the pandemic and the lockdown in the United Kingdom. Then again in May and then in June. And what we saw was a rapid change in the amount of people that said we looked after each other from very low levels, 30 percent in February to 71 percent in May. But now an erosion of that sentiment and of solidarity and communion.

And these shifts in public opinion, I think, reflect what's being done in the muddling of community responses to major disasters early on in the pandemic. There was this graph that was shown that was widely circulated, was created by a US government agency two decades ago, and it talks about the different stages of disaster. And I think that that's replicated in what we are currently seeing.

There was a predecessor phase in which people felt fear and uncertainty, that probably was March, then a heroic phase, and a honeymoon phase characterized by a dramatic shift in emotion during which people felt more apart of a community in which bonding occurs, in which assistance is readily available, and where there's a greater sense of optimism, when I think that's what we were observing, where when we were collecting data in late April and in May. However, that seems to have led us to another phase in disaster, which is the disillusionment phase in which there's a stark contrast to the honeymoon phase and there's greater sense of distrust and greater frustration.

Míriam Juan Torres
And this disillusionment phase usually leads to a reconstruction phase. So the question is, how do we get to the recovery phase in a way that is conducive and positive in the current context? And we say that we are in this disillusionment phase because of the data we are observing when it comes to trust. Trust in institutions on the baseline was pretty bad already in many of the European countries that we have observed in elites, in political leaders, but also trust in others. I think that one of the saddest things that we've observed in the data is that significant percentages of the population say that their trust in others, in others has worsened.

Míriam Juan Torres
However notable as well, is that there are differences according to the national context, and the theory is that it might have to do partly with the perceptions of competence, which could explain why in the Netherlands and Germany, there's less people who say that it's worse than before. And perhaps it could also be a matter of perception of strong communities which could explain the case of the United Kingdom. However, there is that sentiment of frustration and disillusionment with other people as well.

Míriam Juan Torres
I was running a focus group yesterday in the United Kingdom. We engaged a left-leaning group that we've identified in our research, and it was quite heartbreaking to see the amount of people who said they don't see others abiding by social distancing norms and that everyone's in it for themselves, but fret not.

I'm going to be sharing some data points. I talk to this disillusionment phase, but I'll also be sharing some data. That's the action. Be a little bit more positive and then let us feel more optimistic.

Míriam Juan Torres
Great if we can move on to the next slide...

And I think that we can talk about this trust crisis, but this trust crisis is coupled with a belonging crisis which is not caused by the pandemic. It's something that we've been observing for years now in a variety of countries. But it is may have been exacerbated by the pandemic as well. It's a lack of belonging, trust and participation in society, which is a key feature of what we call the exhausted majority in the United States or the invisibles in continental Europe.

But it's not unique to them. And what do we mean by this crisis of belonging? There are significant numbers of people that feel abandoned, that they are treated worse relative to others or at loss when it comes to the society they inhabit, it's a lack of belonging, and the breakup of the social contract. At the same time, it is true that at an individual level, at the family level, about 85 percent say that they know where they are at home and where they belong.

Míriam Juan Torres
But people know where they feel at home. People feel this way. But it's in the larger relational aspect of society and to fellow citizens in that collective sphere that there seems to be a greater sense of loss. This is a frustration shared by different people in the population of different walks of life and backgrounds. And I think something that we need to pay attention to and actually respond. There is a particular psychological makeup of some groups that can make them feel more susceptible to feeling this way or more vulnerable to us versus them narratives, narratives that are promoted in response to these anxieties by nefarious actors.

It seems that a key driver of buying into "us versus them" narratives is a sense of belonging based on the exclusion of others. The promotion of those narratives. So this is definitely something to bear in mind. Again, in our research, we have identified those groups based on their core beliefs who quite referred to that belong to the exhausted majority in the US or they're invisible in continental Europe. And those groups do not dominate public debate and their voices haven't been traditionally elevated as they are often less strident or sensationalist.

But they do tend to exhibit greater levels of disenchantment or lack of belonging. They tend to see more that they also feel like a stranger in their own country or although again, not unique to them. So we are now seeing or reliving in this moment where there's this double crisis of trust and a crisis of belonging.

But I'd like to transition now to a few more positive things. What we observe as well is that COVID has made people more aware that we care for each other. There are improvements in how we perceive how much we care, and especially in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, the U.K. result is striking at 53 percent and thinking we cared about each other more for each other more. And only 9 percent is agreeing, even though a strong majority, at the same time describes the UK government as incompetent in their response. I think it's probably due to the community response and thinking the National Health Service, the surging micro community, is providing mutual aid across the country and the fact that almost seven hundred fifty thousand people volunteered to help out with the NHS, this seems to have shifted Britain's perceptions of each other, at least to feel that we care about the others.

Míriam Juan Torres
Of course, the sentiments are once again in the focus groups. Yesterday, some people were expressing how they feel that the crisis has shown have shown the best, but also the worst in people. But overall, when it comes, comes to caring and thinking about community. We do observe that sentiment and that that we do care about each other. And that's demonstrably true. At the same time, there seems to be greater empathy, greater awareness of the circumstances of other people's lives, such as those most affected that most at risk, health and essential workers, people of color and the elderly.

Míriam Juan Torres
So the majority in all of the countries that we have surveyed now say that they're more aware of the they're more aware of inequalities in society and inequalities can refer to a variety of things. We've heard a lot of people in the focus groups that we're still conducting talk about disability, for example, and people who have chronic disease, that there might be more aware as well as the situation of homeless people and so on. At the same time, it's notable that trusting the health system, the welfare system has remained mostly in change or has improved with the big exception of the United States.

Míriam Juan Torres
I think that the data that's coming out of the was is the most negative. Which is, of course, unfortunate. One further insight coming through our research is that there is a resurgent, not necessarily a resurgence of the localism, but a closeness to the local, for example, local governments are emerging with greater trust than national governments. And there's a big contrast when you look at the national government and then the street level in this case of the United States or the local community with greater feelings of belonging, pride and hope towards this level.

Míriam Juan Torres
And we've asked a variety of questions and they ask, they all pointing in the same direction. I think that some of the most interesting or optimistic data points that I have seen these in the UK where we have collected data at several points in time, and we see how more people nowadays and more than in March say that they feel like they belong to a community. But what I believe is even more important, and more people now say that they think they have agency, that they think that they can change things around them.

Míriam Juan Torres
And this is also reflected in this belief that the majority of people have, including in the United States, most notably, that through their season ends on actions, citizens can, in fact, change society. And this is despite the trust crisis and the frustration with the leads and government. Despite the dissatisfaction. And finally, if people believe that they have greater agency in their communities, this is also evident when it comes to the environment, which I think is some of the most encouraging data.

Míriam Juan Torres
A positive aspect of lockdown is that seemingly it's led to strong conclusions about how humans can impact the environment after reduced pollution during lockdown. In most countries there's high level of agreement with these IDM proposition, and it's quite encouraging.

Tim Dixon
Thank you, Miriam. And there's a ton more insights from the project that we're still very much in the middle of pulling all of the insights together. And we've also only last night, as Miriam mentioned, begun the qualitative research.

Tim Dixon
So we've got a report coming out next month where we'll be bringing together some of these key findings. But now what I'd like to do is to turn to Thomas first and then to john. We're obviously still very much in the middle of the pandemic. And so it's clear from our research that this sort of shared experience is going to be lived out. There's still a long way to run and and change to take place. And recognizing, of course, as well, our research is only in Europe, the United States.

Tim Dixon
So, you know, there's very different things going on in places like Brazil versus New Zealand, for example, or South Africa and Taiwan. And, you know, we can say from our research already about people's sense of exhaustion, their anxiety about the economic fallout, a sense of vulnerability. But alongside that, that sort of sense of seeing more kindness around them, acts of kindness and acts of connection and valuing our shared assets like our health and welfare systems, the environment.

Tim Dixon
And that confidence and change at the local level. So so maybe we could start by just sort of asking and discussing. And I'll start with you, Thomas. What, how do you how do you read all of that? And what are your, what's your sense of sort of the hopes and fears that we should have for the future from where we stand now in the middle of 2020?

Thomas Chatterton Williams
Thanks for having me on. I'm really inspired by the idea that more people believe in their own agency. I've been deeply concerned, though, that as we correct for all that's been so wrong is that we try to get ourselves out of Trump era into something after that. And as we realize the kind of damage that's been inflicted on us through the pandemic and the financial crisis that it's imposed, I worry now that we don't overcorrect in a direction that is if not as bad also worrying in its own ways. I'm so very worried about the sacrifice of our desire to transcend differences and forge a kind of transcendent humanism in favor of a hardening kind of identitarian divisions. The idea that the category that we inhabit, the racial, sexual or gender category is the only thing that's real and the only thing that can't be transcended. I feel like this is becoming more and more a part of our discourse. I'm dismayed when I see the kind of... Well, let me say I'm hopeful when I see so many Americans and also Europeans wanting to engage with ideas of oppression and injustice and inequality and turning to so many books to try to see how to do that. But I'm kind of dismayed when I see the titles and the and the arguments that dominate the conversation right now. So when the argument that Robin DiAngelo or even Kendi makes, saying that people are essentially representatives of groups and cannot transcend those groups, that white people are fundamentally oppressors, and that black people are people that are fundamentally acted upon, and that we are stuck in this kind of dance in perpetuity.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
That concerns me. Just last week, a group of writers and myself published an open letter in Harper's magazine, and we were, it was called A Letter on Justice and Open Debate. And we were calling for, you know, just the recognition that we have to have a society where principles of free expression pertain, obtain. And this became an extremely controversial subject, just the idea that one hundred fifty three signatories from a diverse range of ideological backgrounds signed a statement in favor of free speech and against what is being called cancel culture.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
The idea that some signatories, their mere presence meant that other signatories could not be comfortable on the list was really surprising to me and kind of disappointing. And it makes me wonder how we can find how we can forge a society where we all have, equal stakes in an idea of what the country is supposed to be. When our identities are becoming reinforced as barriers to any kind of common understanding of reality. I'm sorry. As I'm speaking, my screen is like slowing down in, like five seconds behind where I think I am when I'm speaking. I hope that wasn't, like, disjointed.

Tim Dixon
You're coming through great, Thomas no problem.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
So those are just some of my thoughts. I'm mostly worried about the kind of intensification of tribal divisions, which I know More in Common and spent a lot of time talking about within the pandemic situation and before that, the polarization of society and the kind of investment in our arbitrary categories that also are there.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
Our identities are inscribed as a kind of way of jockeying for power, and so, you know, this is something that I think that we have to always get back to the idea of kind of transcendent humanism is what we have to aim for when we reinforce the idea that we're fundamentally different. The question has to be what kind of a future are we fighting for? What kind of vision of a better society do we believe in?

Tim Dixon
Thanks, Thomas. john, can I throw it to you, your reflections on hopes and [lost audio]?

john a. powell
Well, first of all, thank you for your research. I think it's really important. And I think these are really important questions. So a couple of things. I think obviously in the United States we're dealing with the uprising resulted from the killing of George Floyd. And I think that's actually affecting our society in some way.

So we're not with one, but at least two pandemics. I think the interaction of those is still to be determined.

Like Thomas, I'm heartened somewhat, that there's a sense of agency that people do believe they can make a difference. And I think that actually strongly supports the idea of engagement. And it's not clear that things will turn out well. But if we don't engage, the chance that things turn out well are greatly diminished.

I guess I want to come in a little bit on identitarian politics and I'm thinking of Latour Bruno, who wrote a book "Down to Earth" that Mathieu [Lefevre, from More in Common)  like and turned me on to, and we met with some of his colleagues at Sciences Po [Paris]. I think there is there is a potential problem. I think it's misnamed from my perspective. It's not identity politics that's the issue. It's breaking politics. The unwillingness to engage with the other.

One of my favorite writers, Bertrand Russell, makes the observation that we always exist in contexts. And when we transcend the context, we actually move into another context. So in that sense, the sort of ultimate transcendent where there are no context here to reject actually I think that supported a lot by the social scientists, but they're not the same. 

So in some sense, can we have contexts that are malleable, open to change. Can we also create societies where people have multiple identities and they can they can be fluid among those identities. And can we help people bridge?

And so I think to me, that's the challenge. Not getting people to where there are no contexts. Again, the social scientists and psychologists strongly suggest that the very process of thinking is in categories. 

On a larger scale, though, from my perspective, it's not just looking at people, it's looking at what governments do. It's looking at what the elites do. And I think that's reflected in some of your work as well. And unfortunately here at the United States, we have a dysfunctional federal government and a government that's aggressively trying to create toxic polarization. And I think there is a danger, which, to paraphrase Thomas somewhat, that there will be mutual polarization—so another book that I'm reading right now—so, if you attack me, I take you back in the same way.

And it's hard not to do that when you feel under attack to say, OK, people are attacking me, but I'm going to leave open the possibility of bridging. And yet same Smith has exactly what we have to create a space for people to actually bridge even when they feel under attack.

john a. powell
The last thing I'll say it again, sort of encouraged by some of your data.

What in the United States, I feel like now there's a sense that people don't know exactly what to do and people are somewhat afraid and anxious. But there's also a sense people have power.

So I think one of the worst things that can happen is when people feel completely powerless. And I think cynicism, disengagement actually leads to that. I think that leads the elites to actually running the country and the world in a way that's not bridging, not a world of belonging, and not a world where, you know, we could be open to each other. But that's not given.

So, again, I think we have a chance. And I think the some of the work you're doing supports that and suggests what we might do in terms of pressing that chance. So I think there's more work to be done both here and in the world. But I think there's reason if not for optimism, then at least engagement.

Tim Dixon
Thomas, I know that you're, you've absolutely been in the middle of a Twitter storm for the last week or so. I'm interested in your reflections on the difference between the conversation that's among the highly engaged versus the conversation in the wider public. Because I know one thing that we've picked up with from our research is is often I mean, we've got one interesting part of our work at the moment is we have a day to day panel with 100 Americans, representative cross-section of the country. And it's just I mean, one aspect is there is so much less information kind of penetrates to the vast majority of people who are busy with their own lives compared to the quite small proportion of people who are highly engaged.

Tim Dixon
I think the Pew Research last year showed that 97 percent of the tweets about politics on Twitter come from two percent of the population. And so how do you how do you because you're in the middle of those conversations. How do you kind of filter that in your own mind versus the larger conversation? And how do you tap into that sort of broader conversation? How do you sort of get a sense of the two tracks of conversation happening in a country when you've got such a strong level of engagement, a conversation here and then, you know, a much weaker sense of engagement interest, but actually, that's where most people are.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
I mean, that's a good question. It's something that I'm very fascinated with, the disconnect between the extremely online and everybody else. I think that Pew report also showed that like 10 percent of Twitter users generate 80 percent of all Twitter content. And so that's a lot of people who are in the media and who are not necessarily representative of the minority groups that they come from. And it's one of the reasons why, you know, we have Joe Biden as the Democratic candidate because a lot of black and Latino voters are actually a lot less progressive than the voices that dominate the conversation online.

I don't think that that's just an interesting tidbit. I think that that's actually fundamental to understand. Why do most black people, over 50 percent of black people polled not define themselves as liberals? And why do they nevertheless make up, you know, an enormous, just enormously represented, in the Democratic Party? One party doesn't represent them at all and doesn't really make an inclusive space for them. And so black people disproportionately vote Democrat, but they don't actually share the politics of the kind of extremely active and vocal wing and its media representatives who give an impression that there is a kind of way.

There's a kind of viewpoint shared by all members of a given group. One of my favorite examples of this disconnect, which I think is actually not frivolous at all to dwell on, is the introduction of the word "Latinx" into the into the discourse. And you have candidates like Elizabeth Warren who insist on using it. But when polled, Latinos overwhelmingly, I believe 98 percent of all Latinos said that they either never had heard of the term "Latinx", "we didn't like it and didn't want to use it." They preferred Latino or they preferred Hispanic even, which has gone out of vogue, or they prefer a Mexican-American or something more specific.

But the idea that this kind orthodoxy, this linguistic orthodoxy, that everybody is supposed to use to signal that they're anti-racist or thinking correctly about issues having to do with minority groups and ethnic groups, it's important to see how the reality is so different from from the Twitter level reality. And it's important to dwell on how we can bridge the two together.

I mean, I'm constantly in debates about Black identity, where I'm considered a conservative or a heretic for saying certain things that you would hear if you ever took the time to get into a Black barbershop. You would hear from people that have never gotten a bachelors degree or a graduate degree. But it's not actually as unrepresentative of the viewpoint held by many people who would so be identified as Black. So I think that we have a kind of crisis of communication going on that's exacerbating a lot of the other polarized debates that are happening in the country.

Tim Dixon
john, I wonder what your reflection is, because I know that your your own kind of life experience, you have crossed many divides and been in many different sort of social environments from having a father who was deeply religious and growing up in that community to, you know, now being in the center of academia in the Bay Area, you know, the more liberal America and your with the different programs that Offering and Belonging Institute does, like a lot of your work, is is on really grounded issues like housing and state government policies and so forth.

Tim Dixon
How do you see that bridging a conversation between the, you know, the larger numbers in our community and versus the sort of the highly engaged? Because one of the interesting aspects from our research when we've looked at are disengaged populations. We've typically found around 30 to 40 percent in each country we describe as the invisibles or disengaged groups who feel unrepresented. They they have a much higher proportion of people of color and minorities across all of our countries typically have lower socio-economic outcomes that feel like they don't have voice and that feel represented in the in the conversation.

And I wonder how we bring those voices into a conversation, but also just how you your reflection on navigating between the different worlds that you have operated in over many years.

john a. powell
Well, again, I think that's a really important question. A couple of things. One, this is not just happenstance. In the United States we have high levels of disengagement. And it's not just because people are disinterested. It's a question of time, but it's also a question of how we structure our society.

And if you Google, I think, it's the system in 1896, which is interesting, that was before Twitter, before, you know, television, political engagement at the federal level of the United States was quite high and the elites decided it was too high. They affirmatively put systems in place to make it harder to be engaged in our democracy. And they were successful. And many people don't realize that. Yet, that was a very deliberate effort to tamp down participation.

The amount of money in the United States of politics actually dissuades people. 

Doug McAdams, who is down at Stanford and a friend, would call that "deeply divided." And he notes that it's always the organized, or you could say that the informed on politics, are not the majority. And he, in fact, argues that we in the United States particularly make the mistake of thinking that—that first of all, we have a true democracy, and that the majority of people will rule the day.

Think about something like gun control. After one of the shootings, mass shootings, 70 percent of America wanted a change in crime control. The issue didn't even get out of committee. And I told my students when it happened, they said it's going to happen this time, I said ummmm. The structure of our country would suggest not. And it didn't even get committee. 

I'm not cynical, but it's just that these are not just natural occurrences.

But to your larger question. We deliberately call ourselves the Othering and Belonging Institute because we think there are multiple ways which people are othered and across race, class, gender, sexual orientation, disability and the challenge is to put a spotlight on that. I think the COVID pandemic and the uprising has done that, but to do it in a way that actually invites all people in. But then also to think about what are the mechanisms that would help people to come in. So, I mean, think about the presidential election of United States is on a Tuesday or workday. It's like, you know, again, there's nothing constitutionally that requires that. There's been some talk of changing it and some states have.

But I think, first of all, we have to think about this bridging conversations. Secondly, we have to think about narratives that people live in today because there are empowering and disempowering narratives. Third, we have to think about mechanisms. How do we actually make it so that people can vote?

One of the highest voting participation is in the United States is Portland, Oregon. Not just Portland, Oregon. All voting there is by mail. And right now, we're in big discussion about vote by mail.

But the other thing I would say is some of what you're doing is like going out and listening to people, talking to people, finding out what they really think. And I think that could be quite helpful and people are oftentimes really delighted to be listened to because oftentimes people don't listen to them.

The last thing I would say is that the world is changing. And I think you will have these contestations going back and forth because they don't think we're going to return to the old normal, nor should we necessarily. You know, it's here in the United States people are sort of sick of COVID, and so it's like, okay, I'm going back to my life and then we get this huge surge. You know, like it's not just some ideological position—the world is really changing and people will need help negotiating those changes. So the stories we tell, the leadership we have, the resources, and helping people come together.

And one of the ways you do that is not just through that sort of didactic stuff or research that we're all involved in, but also culture. Culture is really important in terms of getting people involved. And so we want to get the cultural artists and cultural creatives involved in this as well.

Tim Dixon
Thanks so much. We've got a bunch of questions coming in. So I wonder if we might shift to our questions now. And the first one is a question about whether there are insights into ethnic disparities during COVID 19. And that seems to be more division now than before. And is COVID 19 making cohesion more or less likely? Maybe I might throw the first part of that to you, Miriam. Thomas and john, feel free to sort of jump in. But I know that you've been looking at the the breakdowns of the research analysis.

Míriam Juan Torres
Yeah, I think it's when I see that that question from forum comes from Mayur Lakani who's based here in the United Kingdom. So hi, Mayur. Nice to see you here watching this with us. Obviously, I'll speak from the perspective of the United Kingdom, given where the question comes from, and also because it's the data that I know the most and that I've been analyzing.

But, of course, one of the conversations around ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom has been around the disproportionate impact of COVID in black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in the UK, particularly because it is true that in the National Health Service, a lot of their health providers are people of color, people from ethnic minorities and much higher percentages than the averages of the population. We do not collect that kind of data off of the impact, but we do have some data in terms of the public perception of what's going on.

And what we have found is that in the United Kingdom, more than half of the population of 54 percent worry about ethnic, racial and religious minorities suffering more than others. So there is this awareness that COVID is having a greater impact on these communities needs a reason of concern for the majority of people. However, it is also true that people don't necessarily understand why that's the case or have the information. So this is something that's reached people and these disproportionate impact, but they don't necessarily have the information or the understanding of what, why that is the case.

We are currently doing focus groups. So we were having a discussion yesterday, as I was saying, with Disengage left leaning group, and they were pointing out to this aspect of COVID and this being a reason for concern, but something that they couldn't understand. And it's not they wouldn't point necessarily to systemic racism or to any other factors that could explain it was a matter of like, we don't know why this is happening. Some of the other data that we have collected in the United Kingdom refers to awareness around racism.

And there's actually some data that was published today that points to to the fact that the majority of the population is aware of the existence of racism or agree that racism is a problem and that it might be related to some of the things that we're seeing nowadays. This is something that we have seen in our data as well. So even as I was saying in March, we collect the data. However, something that to be was perhaps surprising was that there hasn't seemed to be a big shift in terms of whether people believe that we take racism seriously enough or whether we are too sensitive with things to do with race.

And we ask this question both in March. And we've also asked this question now in June, after the demonstrations and the conversation around the impact of COVID in BME communities. And there hasn't been a shift. There are currently no more people saying that we don't take issues of racism seriously enough. It hovers at around 40 percent. So there is not an increased sensitivity or awareness that we can we can point to. And more research needs to be done on on these matters.

But I think it also relates to some of the conversation that we were having with Thomas and john in terms of the language that we use and the conversations that are being had. I think a lot of us that are particularly sensitive to these issues or that are following the debates closely and are attuned to particular conversations, lines of argument or language that are not reflected in how the majority of the population speak. And to go back to the conversation I was having yesterday in the focus group, and I'm even hesitant to share some of these, but there was a moment in which we were talking about racial sensitivities and one of the participants started saying, well, yes, Black Lives Matter.

I have some agreement with it. But like at the same time, all lives matter. And I had a cringe moment. But then he kept talking about how we have all of these inequalities and that it's true that racism has been an issue and that he appreciates that there's greater coverage of these things in the school curriculum. So to me, that was a reflection of this need to actually listen more to those population that are not shouting and screaming and being more active, because, of course, there's a lot of nefarious actors.

And we need to be aware of that. But we also saw that there is this population that doesn't have the language or the same expertise, but also concerns on issues that they care about.

Tim Dixon
You know, this one at one aspect in terms of thinking about the where we think things are going and are we more hopeful for greater cohesion? That struck me with particularly with talking with the disengaged groups, these sort of low engagement, low trust. And it was around there, particularly in the first few weeks after the lockdown happened and people were talking in the groups in the US context.

But actually, we found the same thing in the U.K. as well, where people were saying, this is amazing how people are coming together. They were seeing people in their local communities are acting in a sort of prosocial way, kindness towards strangers, people initiating these kind of micro communities in apartment blocks, in the street, etc., and sort of pulling together. And it was really strong. The response, the positive response to that was particularly strong in these low engagement, disengaged, disengaged groups.

And one of the psychological insights around that, the group sort of 30, 40 percent the population, is that you get a much higher proportion of people with what psychologists talk about as the ardent mindset. That is, that they. Karen  Stenner's done work on this with her book, The Authoritarian Dynamic. But they have an anxiety about division. And almost like a hypersensitivity, just a psychological hypersensitivity to the country feeling divided.

And they often tend to be more opposed to immigration as a result, regardless, in fact, of their whether they're white or people of color. They have a resistance to immigration. Because there's a psychological association of immigration and a more divided society. It's not especially thought through, but it's just a well, if we're all different. And that means that we'll be more divided society. And so when they get presented with images where people are coming together across the boundaries of, say, white and immigrant populations and they see them function together, actually they're very positive in response.

And I think that's it's a it's the need to understand that anxieties about immigration, for example, are not a monolith. They're different. There are you know, there are people who have deep seated prejudice. There's also people who have know forms of anxiety that actually can be addressed through their personal experiences, through the things that they they see around them. And there was a real shift that happened when they saw people behaving well. And I think part of this is the media environment is telling us all the time how dysfunctional we are.

And so when people experience something different, actually, they're probably just experiencing a lot of ordinary life that they're always over indexing on the extent to which we're at each other's throats when. Because that's the media environment that we're all in. But when they feel and experience more positive things happening around them, it actually changes their emotional state. And there was this almost like a kind of euphoria that we saw for a few weeks there. Now, that may be simply something that is not reducible.

On the other hand, you know, it is something that if you talk to people who served in armed forces, together with others and sort of who went through shared experiences that were traumatic and where they experience some sense of togetherness and everybody being alongside each other, pulling in the same direction. That's part of our question is whether the strength of resolve that we need to do something together about climate, we need to do more. Is that an opportunity for sort of to build more cohesion?

Tim Dixon
Because I do think that I mean, people will criticize and say, well, you know, it's a bit kumbayah, people don't just want to sort of come together. Or the only people who want to sort of want social unity are people who are sort of already there. And so how does that help people who sort of feel divided or more hostile? But I do think this when it's a pulling together in a common direction, there's an opportunity to build bridges and to do unexpected things. And I think that's a question for us about whether the pandemic has created an opportunity there for more pulling together in a common direction, for working together and for bridging some of our divides. I don't know, Thomas or john, whether you've got any thoughts on that, please.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
When you talk about, can we find common cause and pull together for something like climate, which I know that is necessary, it makes me worry about the phrase I think was used before as belonging, based on the exclusion of others. Or, you know, tackling issues by racialize in the language of what the issue is, instead of talking about the way that the issue may affect us all. Two examples of this. In recent months have been, you know, in the early outbreak of the pandemic in the United States, there was so much media coverage of COVID 19 as being something that was dubbed in The New Yorker, the black plague. And the disease itself was racialized in certain ways that I think made it difficult actually for a lot of white and non black Americans to take it seriously enough.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
And so now you see that the United States is in singular trouble globally with with the disease surging in ways that other countries in Europe and elsewhere are not seeing because they had a unified, kind of non-polarized response to to a contagion that doesn't make racial differences. What it does is it preys on people that are in certain circumstances of which black and Latino people in America tend to disproportionately find themselves. To racialized language, my point is, is to miss the ways in which we could have all kind of tackled a common threat together.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
Another instance of this is the way that we you know, I want to first say that the response to the extraordinary police brutality that happens in United States in the past few years, this response organized by Black Lives Matter, is something that I'm really inspired by. However, I say that with the caveat that when you racialize something that happens in America, like police extrajudicial executions of people in the street by police officers, when you when you talk about the pandemic of police violence, which claims about 1000 lives in America a year and 500 of those lives are whites roughly.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
And roughly 250 of those lives are black. And another 250 are everything else. When you frame that in the language of race and you make this a uniquely kind of black problem, then you lose the ability to make white people understand outside of pitying black people. You make them lose the under the ability to understand that police violence is a problem that is out of control in America and affects all Americans and that we should all be invested in stopping police from killing people, period.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
So those are just two examples in the past few months that have caught my eye as a way that where we're not going in the direction that we're going to need to go to if we want to tackle enormous problems that cannot possibly not affect us all, such as climate.

Tim Dixon
Yeah, there's a great example of that, how we frame a problem that I came across in this great organization, Picum based in Brussels that works across European countries on the essentially kind of health and other issues for undocumented populations.

And I mean, I guess I I think of them rather similar the way that I approach some of these problems of sort of combining idealism and pragmatism. How do you actually sort of get results and move things forward? And they had been campaigning for a long time, their campaigns for access to health services for the undocumented in cities across Europe. And the shift that that took place that actually allowed them to be more successful was they they stopped starting the conversation with the group that was seen as the other, the undocumented that felt sort of most alien to the domestic populations.

Tim Dixon
And they found that the common shared value was medical ethics. Doctors have the Hippocratic Oath and they should treat people who are sick. That is a shared value, and all our society can agree that doctors should treat, treat sick people and they were able to see a policy change through the framework of a universal principle of sick people get treated not by starting the conversation through the lens of othering, which is just basically harder work to bring population on side.

Tim Dixon
I would love to see that work done as well, because it's that the fundamental task of bridging and overcoming othering is incredibly important. But there are also steps in how we how we do that. And I think it's an interesting example their reflection was like this is the way to appeal to a shared identity in order to sort of bring people together and shared value to bring people together and move things forward. john, is that how you think of the ways in which we we move conversations forward toward belonging?

john a. powell
Well, I think, you know, I think the goal is clear in terms of bringing people together and in terms of having and lifting upcoming experiences. I don't think you do that, though, by not talking about race. I'm  talking about groups who are deeply marginalized. I don't use the word minority for a number of reasons that I could go into.

But let me give you a couple of examples. So in terms of COVID, we were the first groups to push for disaggregated data. And we actually, Michigan was the first state. We work with people in Michigan. And at the same time, we were concerned that if, not surprised, but concerned that if it turned out that the virus was affecting blacks and other groups of color disproportionately, they could easily be a narrative that would turn people away from the seriousness of the virus. And so that became the issue. Right. So I think it's more nuance is not, we want the data and the data is there.

But that doesn't mean it's a black problem, per se. In fact, I think that's a misnomer that the issue of the virus, and Míriam sort of talked about this, is that it's not simply that people are situated differently.

john a. powell
People are situated differently, largely, through a racialized lens. And so it's not just people. It's how we create different experiences for people. That's in a sense, what race is. Race is a social construction. That construction happens through how we situate people. We have to be to talk about that and the challenge is. So the challenge from our perspective is not not to talk about it, but to talk about it the way that is a bridge, tthat is inclusive.

And we've done a fair amount of work on that. Give you one more example and then I'll talk about some of the work. The police actually is a great example. And Thomas gave us some data, which I think is pretty accurate, but it misses from my perspective, an important point. The killing of black people is not the same of killing a white people. Trump just recently said something like, more white people are killed by the police than black people.

The killing of black people is terrorism—it's police killing people because they're black. In the United States, we have a whole segment of law called hate crimes. So if you kill someone or you beat up someone because of their identity, that's different than just beating up someone. And I've been working this area a long time and and I've never heard a white person claim that the police killed that person because he's white, that that was a contributing factor.

And so what we say in the context United States is that that is actually a different crime when you actually kill someone because of their identity, you're actually not just killing that person. You're also sending a message that that entire community. So I wouldn't conflate those two. So I think the goal of actually bringing— I think there's a danger that when we look at anti-black racism, when we look at any time we lift up what's happening with a particular group. There's a danger of actually doing it in such a way that it breaks. But that's not an entail.

One more example then. Native Americans, when the strategy for dealing with COVID, wash your hands frequently all day and distance yourself from people, that ignores the condition that many people live in. The Navajo Nation, the largest tribe in the United States—between 30 and 40 percent of people don't have access to running water. So what do you mean wash my hands frequently?

And so we're actually seeing these these things go through these systems that are already there. The same thing happened in Katrina when they said we've got to have a hurricane, get in your car and leave. And it wasn't until later they figured out that 35 percent of black people didn't have cars. Now, things interesting is that when that data comes out. What's the story that we tell? How do we make sense of it?

john a. powell
And the surgeon general, when he heard that the data that blacks were more likely to get the virus and have complications and even die. He talked about, he immediately turned it black behavior. There's something wrong with black people—they need to lose weight, need to stop smoking. But also, if you look at who gets tested, where hospital beds are, where the doctors are.

john a. powell
I wrote a piece about my two nieces, three nieces, really two of my nurses and one doctor and I call them, and I won't go through the whole story. But my niece says the doctor is in Ann Arbor, which is a small college town. It's predominately white. She had all of the protective gear she needed.

john a. powell
My two nieces who are in Detroit who are nurses and no protective gear. So that's already racialized. But I do think there's nuance that we can talk about these things and we need to talk about them. But you do it in a way that is bridging. That is, do bring everyone in. We're not skilled at that, but we can do it.

john a. powell
And the last thing I'll say is, Tim, you know, we talk about targeted universalism. So ww share these universal goals, these universal aspirations. What are they? But then we target people based on the fact that they are situated differently within structure. And it's not because they're white or they're black or Latino or because they're gay, it's because they're situated differently. So it takes the essentialism out of the question. But it also looks at their situation and it holds on to universal as an aspiration, but not as a condition.

So, I know I'm throwing out a lot of things, but I think there's a way of doing this, this more nuance, and that doesn't create the binary of "let's not talk about race because that's divisive" on one hand. Or, "let's talk about race, but do it in such a way that you exclude people" on the other. I think we can actually do better than that.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
May I add one? I think john is right to certainly point out the fact that race impacts policing, especially with blacks, in a way that can't be ignored. And I don't want to come across as denying that, but I do want to tease out one nuance, which is that oftentimes we in the American conversation, race becomes like a stand in for class. And we don't actually disentangle the ways in which class is quite important to some of these encounters.

So, you know, I wrote a piece a few weeks back about how George Floyd's death was conditioned by his race. I certainly believe that. But it was also fundamentally the result of his class. You know, he was out of work. He was one of the 40 million Americans who was on unemployment after the pandemic hit. And he did encounter with the police officer was initiated by his having been in such a circumstance that he was passing a forged bank note.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
So while I don't deny that it can be very different when a black person is killed by the cops, then it can be when a poor white person like Tony Timpa was killed by the police not so long ago and caught on videotape when he was kneeled on until he died. I do think that there is something that can be fundamentally different. But I think that it often is not simply a matter of race, but there is a class dynamic that has to be addressed and that we can't actually really make progress so long as we see it as only racial dynamic and not accounting for the fact that black people disproportionately happened to be poor.

john a. powell
So, Thomas, I agree with you, although again another nuance. It's not that Black people happen to be poor. That's the racial system in the United States. And I've written a lot about this, and Ian Haney Lopez, a friend of mine a colleague has written a couple of books on this. David Roediger written a really brilliant book called Wages of Whiteness. He makes the observation that in the 1900s, when in a sense the class structure in United States was being formed, the working class was seen as white. And that was not something that black people did, that was something that the elite did. And so classing in states is actually deeply implicated in race and vice versa. It's not so easy to tease out. And I think to actually shift the discussion from race to class while they are involved with each other actually misses a lot.

Just one example. So in the context of health, generally speaking, women who are middle-class and educated have babies at full term and for weight, women who are poor and less educated tend to have premature babies and higher death for their babies. But here's the wrinkle. Black women who are college educated and middle class have low weight babies at a higher rate than white women who dropped out of school and were poor. And when the doctors keep looking at that, they finally came to the conclusion that race is doing some work here that class is not doing itself.

john a. powell
And sometimes I say the only thing in the United States that we understand less well, less well than race is class. And so, yeah, I think they are implicated and there's a lot of nuance here. But I think in a sense, the reluctance to talk about race and to sort of shift it to class is too easy. So really, um, to have a serious conversation about class and about race and about the elites which play an oversized role in all of this needs to be had. But to do it in a way that is open and build bridges and that creates a sense of belonging of all people. I mean, to me, that's the goal.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
Well, I think I really agree with you.

Míriam Juan Torres
I think one of the something that I'm really appreciating about this conversation is that there is a lot of nuance and I think that there might be some disagreements amongst us in how we view a variety of things. But we are actually coming into the conversation with their willingness to listen and engage with different lines of argument.

And one of the questions I was asked, I think it was Corey, is how would these perspectives and understood the needs of intersectionality saying that is to say, we speak of these identities as these categories when in fact the intersection of identities is the case. And I think that when this question was posed was referring to maybe our presentation and what we were talking about. So I'd like to talk about it a little bit and like how it relates to these intersectionality in the conversation on race, gender and other demographics.

Míriam Juan Torres
So more income on what we're looking, as is the data I'm trying to understand as us versus them. There are things, but also attitudes towards race and towards migration, towards inequality, towards a variety of issues, but through the lens of social psychology. So we want to understand how people's underlying psychological architecture actually influenced those views. And these are a product of an upbringing, also a product of our in our psychology. And we look at threat perceptions.

Míriam Juan Torres
We look at what's called moral foundations theory, we look at underlying authoritarian tendencies which referred to the need for order and a cognitive inability or not inability but more difficult data to deal with change. And there's no value judgment in how would being one and type of architecture or the other. In fact, there's probably a lot of arguments in favor of having people who think differently within a society to act as checks and balances. That is the approach that we contribute to that conversations, because we do have all of the data collected as well when it comes to demographics.

Míriam Juan Torres
But there is a danger of centralizing people or looking through one of only of those demographic traits, which, as you point out, is problematic. I completely 100 percent agree with john. We do need that disaggregated data because people are racialized, people are situated differently within society. We think society and we have all systems that actually like influence on this might view, people's outcomes in life. Although we need to move beyond binary arguments and beyond traditional categories as well.

Míriam Juan Torres
So it's, I think, a matter of not either or not just looking through demographics, not just looking for core beliefs, not just looking through only race and gender, but actually  having that ability of having a complex viewpoint that looks into the intersection between class and race, but also into the that understanding, that we are all wired differently and there are, yes, differences between groups, but also even greater differences between individuals sometimes. So we need to have that, like, that possible understanding that allows us to under to look at that different situations that we have in society because we need to unpack it.

We need to definitely, we need to tackle that there are systemic disadvantages. But as john was saying, we also need to be able to have that conversation without essentializing people. And that's why I think we need to have this more complex approach through the core beliefs that doesn't obliterate or ignore structure or race or gender. Because—we were having the conversation yesterday and with a lot over these past few months. It's something that a lot of people have observed during this pandemic is the huge impact that it's having on people with disabilities.

Míriam Juan Torres
So I think that it's a matter of having that that less binary thinking and actually like our capacity to hold different views at the same time and use that as a lens of analysis.

Tim Dixon
This one, just a practical dimension of that that I thought might be useful to pick up on, I'm just going see if I can share the screen again, show you. We've been asking around. Future policies. This is an, on the issue of class and economic inequality.

There is this because of this shift that's happened. And I think there is a sort of a sense of what does it take for people to sort of stop and see the inequalities and the injustices around them. But certainly a pandemic does it right, this greater awareness of the lives of other people, because it's been maybe people have had a little bit more time to sort of pay attention, but it's been really in people's faces across different countries.

Tim Dixon
But just look at this. We ask these questions about if you if both governments are providing support to businesses, should these things be conditional before they get any money? So using overseas tax havens and instead stop, stop using tax havens and pay the proper taxes in the country, you're getting 90 as high as 94 percent, 95 cent support in countries for that on wages. There is a real opportunity for a shift shifting the norms on wages for key workers, essential workers and health workers because of the recognition of it's, these are the people who are doing the real work in society, who are exposed, who are at risk, who had no choice to stay home during the lockdown. The strength of localism around, reshorring or, you know, companies that simply go for the cheapest option and and undermine the economic viability of communities, saying we need to reverse this carbon emissions. So requiring companies to take action, take responsibility for reducing their emissions. And even more contentious issue that is putting a ceiling on the pay for senior executives still gets three quarters or more support and all but one country and up to 90 percent in Italy.

Tim Dixon
So I think it's an interesting snapshot, of course, that's not you know, that's a sort of one piece of it. But I do think that the bailout funds, because, you know, huge amounts of money are being committed by governments across the world. And it's a crazy missed opportunity. If this if at the same time some norms aren't shifted here, both because of the actual outcomes and also because of the sense of fairness, you know, one of the consequences that fed the rise of insurgent populism post 2008 was the frustration at the injustice of bailout funds being delivered to that sort of sense of Wall Street, not Main Street being looked after.

Tim Dixon
And, you know, we have a choice about whether we replicate that in this moment or whether we see something different happens. I think that there is really an opportunity here. It's immediate because it's where the public is at. And if we fail to do that, then we risk the same backlash happening in the in the in the wash up from this period. What I'd like to do now is just to wrap up our conversation, because we're sort of coming near the half hour. But I'd love to hear Thomas and John, if you've got concluding thoughts.

Thomas Chatterton Williams
Sure. I guess I would start by just reiterating that I don't think that we can ever kind of transcend our divisions by finding recourse in overemphasizing our divisions. There's a lot of kind of incentive now to think about all that divides us into our identities as being the kind of the only thing that's real about us and that cannot be transcended. And so my writing and kind of public thinking is always about trying to minimize the categories that limit us from finding common ground.

But I also want to say that, you know, john is absolutely right, that we can't just skip to the step of colorblindness or what have you, without doing the work of thinking about all of the ways in which these categories do impact us. We have to kind of do two things at once, which I think are very hard, but I think are necessary. We have to fight racism and fight all the isms that define this. But keep our eye always on the longer term objective, that racism creates race and not the other way around. And so we actually have to be ultimately against these kind of categories and abstractions that seem to rule our lives and define our thinking. Now.

Tim Dixon
Thanks, Thomas. Thanks so much for joining us, john.

john a. powell
I've enjoyed the discussion. I think we sort of looked at a number of nuances and complicated stuff. Amartya Sen, a Nobel economist, made the observation that our salient identity is the identity that's under attack or threat. And so if you're in India, that's likely to be that you are Muslim. If you're in France, it's likely to be that you're an immigrant. So it changes, I mean, as the threat changed, the salience of identity changed. So to that extent, I think it's not just people deciding to make an agenda important. It's like experience individually and experience from the overall society, and the elites highlighting the importance of an identity. 

also I think I just want to say, in terms of Black identity in the United States, it can be something that limits people, but it also can be liberatory. It can be a source of progressive change, and not just for Black people.

Míriam Juan Torres
Thing we lost john for a second.

Tim Dixon
Well, hopefully we might get John back for a moment, but Miriam you wanted to jump in.

Míriam Juan Torres
Yeah. Just wanted to reflect a little bit on our findings. I think the data is in some ways discouraging and we think that COVID has made evidence a lot of the challenges that we face as a society. But hopefully making them more evident will actually lead to greater willingness to tackle them. I think that what is encouraging is to see these greater levels of perceived agency in community.

And I tried to be positive or optimistic. And sometimes it's not easy, obviously, when we deal with these things. But I do believe that people are capable of change. And as someone who does a lot of qualitative research, I need to suspend judgment with dealing with ideas that I often disagree with. I've become convinced that we have great capacity for empathy. And I think that this is something that john was talking about. We have empathy, even if what's happening is affecting someone who is not like us.

Míriam Juan Torres
We can have a greater empathy towards people who think differently, because if we understand how we are wired differently, but particularly I agree with john who says as well that there's a role to play for culture and arts. I think that's something that that's been shown, is that literature and the arts can be the greatest vehicle for empathy. So I think that's part of the conversation, part of the solution to division and polarization as well.

Tim Dixon
Thanks Míriam. And this has been a rich conversation. We really appreciate the partnership with the team at Othering and Belong Institute and Rachelle and Dwayne and the team that's helped to put everything together. 

I am mortified that we've lost our last minute of john there, that we want to sort of wrap it at the half hour. So let me just say thank you for everybody who's joined us in the conversation today.

We are trying. Doing our best to learn what we can take of this moment and what we can turn to good. And to sort of build an evidence base and share insights from where we see opportunities. And there are as many people on the call who are partners in that endeavor. And we really appreciate the opportunity to work with you. Thank you also, Thomas, for joining us. I know that you squashed this in between interviews. You're about to go on French national television. All the best for that.

And thank you again, john. You're back!You want to a parting word, a benediction?

john a. powell
Well, I think I think we have. I think it's a great conversation. I think there are nuances and differences. But I think we have to share goals. And I think we need to experiment and continue to engage the best way to get there and build bridges, not just with different groups, but even with people on the call. So, again, I appreciate the conversation and the work that everyone's doing.

Tim Dixon
Thank you so much.

Míriam Juan Torres
Thanks, everyone.

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