Paradox and promise in the dialogue on race: A case study analysis of the dialogues of the Springfield (Massachusetts) World Class City Commission
In June of 1997, when President Clinton introduced his “Initiative on Race”, his plan was to engage the people of the nation in an open, honest dialogue about the problems of prejudice and racial discrimination. Mayor Michael Albano of Springfield, MA answered his call to dialogue by creating the Springfield World Class City Commission (SWCCC), whose tasks it would be to assist the municipal government in eliminating racism and discrimination in the city and improving the living conditions for all citizens of Springfield. Within a year, the activities of the SWCCC that had started with high enthusiasm and hope had all but ended, falling well short of their intended goals.
In this study, the dialogues of the SWCCC meetings are analyzed for the communicative accomplishments and difficulties within the meetings, themselves, and within, and as influenced by, the social, political, and cultural scene of Springfield at the time. The analysis, done from a social constructionist perspective (Berger and Luckmann, 1966), uses of the theory and methodology of the Coordinated Management of meaning (Pearce and Cronen, 1980). It provides a critical, case study interpretation of the ways in which the SWCCC's communicative action contributed to, changed, and sustained the sociocultural environment of Springfield; it also examines the use and usefulness of “dialogue” as a method of conflict resolution.
The paradoxical story of Springfield was the story of the SWCCC, as they struggled to construct grammars of race, identity, and action that would lead to change and reconciliation between ethnic and racial groups in the city. Three repeating, reflexive loops were revealed in the SWCCC's communication when the talk turned to issues about race, the most effective way to talk about these issues, and the ongoing struggle between grassroots and administrative approaches to social change. The analysis of these three loops leads to suggestions about the paradox and promise of the dialogue on race, and opens a discussion about the dichotomy in the field of communication about methods for analyzing communication.
Minority & ethnic groups;
0631: Minority & ethnic groups
0617: Public administration