MDCR Director Calls for Civility, Respectful Dialog

Calls on Americans to “speak up and speak out” to find compromise

 

Media Contact Only: Vicki Levengood - levengoodv@michigan.gov

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October 26, 2018

Waterford, MI--Michigan Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin V. Arbulu delivered the final keynote speech for the third annual Defeat the Label Community Conversation on Bullying Friday afternoon. During his speech, Arbulu discussed the impact of the current political rhetoric on our youth and our culture and called for Americans to “take the reins” and restore civility.

Citing a study that has not yet been published but was presented at the American Educational Research Association gathering in April, Arbulu noted an increase in bullying and teasing in the wake of Donald Trump’s election win.

“They found that in 2017, teasing and bullying were significantly higher in schools located in districts that had voted for Donald Trump . . .” In fact, bullying incidents were 18 percent higher in Republican leaning districts. Teasing about race or ethnicity was 9 percent higher in GOP districts . . . [T]his recent study supports what we at the Michigan Department of Civil Rights discovered: immediately following the elections in 2016, our offices began receiving calls especially from families and students complaining about instances of bullying, hate and violence aimed at students of color and those of ethnic backgrounds.”

In noting the impact of the political rhetoric in American culture today, which Arbulu said was “toxic for our children and for us,” he reminded participants of Gov. Rick Snyder’s calls for civility in public discourse.

“In Michigan, our own Governor Rick Snyder pushed back hard on the harsh, abusive rhetoric of the 2016 political campaign, calling for civility. He rightly noted that we accomplish much more working together, respecting each other and listening than we gain by tearing each other down. And he is right - we need civility in having difficult conversations.”

While Arbulu noted the toxic impact of political rhetoric on our youth and our culture, he also said that “…we can do something about it.” He referred to the study Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape, which was released last week. The study found a small minority of Americans on the very extremes of political ideology control today’s political debates. Those in the middle are labeled the “exhausted middle,” he noted of the study.

“The vast majority of Americans . . . sit in the middle of these extremes. But their voices are not at the table and not guiding our politics. If they were, we would see more people demanding that we listen to others who disagree with us and to find common ground. . .”

“That’s not pie in the sky”, the Director continued. “It is time we empower the exhausted middle to speak up and speak out. It is time we empower them to take the reins in our communities and not allow the voices to be controlled at the margins. And, no, I am not talking about politics. I am talking about in our school PTAs and our neighborhood watch groups. I am talking about empowering the exhausted middle and our youth to be the upstanders.”

“One of the things I appreciate about Defeat the Label is that it is encouraging young people to be upstanders. It also means teachers, administrators, and other school staff need to be empowered to give voice to the exhausted middle’s commonsense search for commonality, acceptance and civil discourse.”

The full text of the speech can be accessed here.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the operational arm of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, is charged with investigating and resolving discrimination complaints and works to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. The Department also provides information and services to businesses on diversity initiatives and equal employment law. For more information on the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, go to www.michigan.gov/mdcr.

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