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University of Michigan-Dearborn apologizes for segregated ‘virtual cafes’ meant to spur discussion about race

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Grasso, called the attempt “a mistake that was a significant misstep resulting in harm and pain.”

“These virtual cafes were intended to provide members of our campus community with opportunities to reflect on their lived experiences. However, the framing and presentation of the purpose and intended outcomes of these events were poorly conceived and executed,” the chancellor wrote in a letter.

One virtual cafe was meant for people of color to gather and discuss their experiences, while the other was meant for “non people of color.” The latter received backlash, as many criticized the idea of hosting a space for only White people to discuss race without the presence of any people of color.

The virtual cafes have been labeled as a fumbled attempt at racial reckoning. Following the shootings of many Black people this year, notably George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake, many have pursued ways to unearth systemic racism. But even as these attempts are made, it’s clear that they don’t always have the intended effect.

“Our community is hurting. Our opportunity to create meaningful and consequential conversation was lost,” the letter said. “But we remain steadfast in our ability to listen and learn.”

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