FAIR Utah: Improving Communication and Understanding
When FAIR Utah Chapter Leader Alicia Alba first discovered FAIR in March of 2021, she recognized that its pro-human values could help unify people across the country and in her home state of Utah. As in many communities, the Black Lives Matter protests throughout 2020 had divided Utahns across the issue of addressing racism. Alicia described many of these protests as being a “very illiberal approach” that forced people to make a choice between one extreme or another. These extremes—embracing militant anti-racism or denying the role of racism in American society—left no room for nuance, common ground, or progress.
FAIR offered an alternative to the mainstream approach of anti-racism. Alicia says that she was “grateful to have found something unifying, focused, and pro-something (rather than anti) which could actually advocate for a better path forward.” Alicia views America as being at a crossroads, where issues like gender identity, addressing racism, and diversity, equity, and inclusion have become part of mainstream politics. She believes the policies and attitudes towards these issues being debated now will have “far-reaching consequences,” making it a key moment for FAIR’s values to be embraced. In order to “build on common ground, quit othering others, and find collaborative solutions,” Alicia has spearheaded multiple events and initiatives around Utah to attract FAIR-minded volunteers and promote FAIR’s pro-human approach within the community.
Software developer Jefferson Shupe, now co-leader of the Utah chapter, was invited by Alicia to join in 2021. Jefferson says that he has always been fascinated with “bedrock principles,” or the guiding values that people hold. In order to teach important principles to his children, he had spent years exploring the diversity of opinions online, on social media, and in his community. He found that “the process of searching out these principles—thinking critically, and finding nuance and common ground” was what he wanted to pass onto his kids and the people around him. This goal led him to reach out to his school board with unifying proposals, publish a FAIR-minded young adult book, and ultimately join FAIR. Jefferson recognized that FAIR’s Utah chapter could help people discover and critically examine ideas while learning from one another in a pro-human environment.
Since 2021, Alicia and Jefferson have worked together to introduce a pro-human approach to opposing racism and intolerance throughout Utah. They have hosted speakers who engaged in the 1960s Civil Rights movement, and reached out to local and state government officials to share FAIR’s resources, goals, philosophy, and initiatives. They have also collaborated with parents and local school boards to implement the FAIRstory curriculum into Utah school districts. Their local focus helps the chapter amplify its voice and influence as they continue to expand throughout the state. When talking about the importance of a grassroots movement like FAIR, Alicia notes that, “we don’t have to do everything, but we do need to do something. And I believe that when everyone contributes their unique ‘something’, it will be more than enough to change the world.”
In February of 2022, the FAIR Utah chapter and FAIR National hosted a joint event at the Utah State Capitol. They met with government officials, community leaders, and the public to discuss using a constructive, pro-human approach to racism in Utah schools. This public event showcased FAIR’s approach of bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to converse and find common ground. Alicia and Jefferson are hoping that this will become an annual FAIR Utah “Day at the Capitol” Event to continue exposing Utahns to FAIR’s pro-human principles.
“Things are very political in Utah right now,” Jefferson says. Like the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, he explains, people see the two extreme sides of an issue and support whichever one is the “least distasteful.” Because issues around race have become so political and polarizing, the concept of middle ground has become lost. Alicia says that this politicized climate has made straw men— caricatures of another person’s argument—rampant. The existence of these straw men helps widen the gap between ideological opponents because neither side is truly listening to or understanding one another.
“Many people spend a lot of time telling other people what they believe rather than actually listening to the beliefs they are expressing,” Alicia stated. “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” FAIR’s pro-human values and principles of peaceful change create a space for listening, rather than simply talking at each other. The dialogue fostered by the Utah chapter’s events highlights how the practice of communication and understanding can lead to beneficial outcomes.
“Being pro-human allows you to square yourself to your perfect opposite in gender, tribe, age, experience, ancestry, interest, ability, and philosophy, and to connect with them in the most meaningful way possible,” Jefferson says. “It sets both of you up to see swaths of common ground you had no idea were there. Even if the human connection is the only one you can find, it is still both significant and profound.”
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism or its employees.
In keeping with our mission to promote a common culture of fairness, understanding, and humanity, we are committed to including a diversity of voices and encouraging compassionate and good-faith discourse.
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Thank you. Good and encouraging summary.