Diversity lessons learned during TOW

Source: Wausau Daily Herald

WAUSAU – When it comes to making Wausau more inclusive for everyone, the work is just beginning.

That was the message of a celebration event Friday held by Toward One Wausau, an initiative dedicated to assessing issues surrounding diversity and discrimination. The project launched after the homicide case of Hmong teenager Dylan Yang and subsequent peace march revealed racial tensions within the community.

Over the course of a year, Toward One Wausau surveyed residents online and held a series of 21 public deliberations to gauge people’s views on how to make the community more welcoming for all people, regardless of ethnicity, culture or background.

Friday’s event was a culmination of those efforts, with Toward One Wausau revealing what it found to a gathering inside Northcentral Technical College’s cafeteria. Attendees also enjoyed a variety of ethnic food and musical and dance performances.

Here are some of the things Toward One Wausau learned from more than 300 people who participated in public deliberations, 231 of whom completed a survey after the deliberation:

  • Overall, people feel Wausau would be more welcoming if people who look and think differently got to know each other through individual and group interaction.
  • Participants overwhelmingly agree that a perception of mistrust between minorities and law enforcement could be improved by neighborhood relationship-building, but believe it must be done carefully and in partnership with these residents.
  • People largely support implicit bias and experiential diversity training in businesses, government and nonprofit organizations.
  • Participants want to see more transparency from justice and governing processes.
  • People overwhelmingly favor more diverse community events.
  • Most participants support creating paths to leadership positions for diverse residents, but want to avoid tokenism.

Those in attendance Friday shared their reactions to Toward One Wausau’s findings in small groups and also discussed strategies for how the community can move forward and take action. Some local residents suggested focusing on strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and minorities and improving school curriculum to better reflect women and minorities in history.

The event acknowledged and celebrated Toward One Wausau’s progress over the last year, noting that it can be difficult to bring people to the table to have these conversations. But both the project’s representatives and participants emphasized that this is only the start of a process to make the community more united.

Despite the long road ahead, Weston resident Gwen Taylor is hopeful.

“There’s work to be done, but there’s people who are willing and eager to do the work,” she said.

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