Bridging the Gap

By Chloé Johnston

After the tragic news of George Floyd’s death took the world by storm, University of Kansas student Jakob Moberly, a junior double majoring in music therapy and musicology, noticed a worrying trend among his peers. Performative activism seemed to have become the new norm, usually from a party without any interest in having a discussion around this issue at hand. Without the inclusion of conversation, Jakob began to question how someone can “know for sure that’s what they believe in?”

As a founding member and leader of BridgeKU, a chapter of BridgeUSA, he felt that he should “take a stand and share what I [he] know[s]/how to have open conversations over social media.” BridgeUSA is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating spaces on college campuses for students to have polite, empathetic, and intellectual conversations on controversial topics.

With empathy and understanding, it is possible to move beyond what we assume to be true and truly listen to understand people different than ourselves.

This sense of responsibility led Jakob to start posting comments related to current events (George Floyd, Defund the Police, etc.) on his Facebook story. Wherein, he attempted to push people outside of their comfort zone and start a meaningful conversation. From this initial push, Jakob has had over 40 different conversations with people ranging vastly in beliefs and ideology, with some conversations being more productive than others.

In those cases where interactions truly didn’t begin as conversations, Jakob made a conscious effort to return empathy in the face of aggression. It was during these moments that he made it a point to acknowledge the emotional ties individuals may have to the topic at hand and, hopefully, move forward with more open dialogue.

Even in these trying times, it is through Jakob’s efforts that we can see that open, constructive dialogue is possible, regardless of ideology or belief. With empathy and understanding, it is possible to move beyond what we assume to be true and truly listen to understand people different than ourselves.

About the Author

Chloé Johnston is the Counterweight Editor and Graphic Designer for the BridgeUSA National Team. She more recently graduated from Oregon State University with her Honors Bachelor of Science in Psychology. After the completion of her BS, she will be attempting to complete both a Master’s and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.