How do you navigate a relationship with someone who holds beliefs that strongly differ from yours? Oregon Humanities’ Think & Drink series on journalism and justice kicked off on October 24 with this question in mind during an onstage conversation with Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Eli Saslow, author of the book Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist. The book explores the story of Derek Black, a prominent advocate for white supremacy in his youth, who began to question and eventually renounce his worldview after efforts by his college classmates to expose him to experiences and histories he had previously ignored. Joining Saslow onstage was Emily Harris, reporter and producer for the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal public radio show and podcast.
Harris and Saslow spoke about Black’s story and how his college community worked to change his beliefs. “One of the myths about Derek’s transformation is that students reached out to him and changed his mind. But civil resistance also had its own huge role,” Saslow said on stage. “We talk about civil resistance and civil outreach, or civil discourse as two totally binary tracks. … In Derek’s case, they were actually mutually beneficial and they worked together.” On the topic of white nationalism and his understanding of it as he grew to know Derek’s family and their ideology through the project, Saslow said, “The real danger of these ideas [of white nationalism] is that many of these ideas are embedded in what our country is and are still embedded in our structure as a society.”
Saslow and Harris also talked about the journalistic process more generally. When Harris asked about the process of embedding himself in a story, and the experience of building a relationship with his subjects, Saslow replied, “The central part of my job, and the most complicated part of my job, is building trust.”
The Journalism and Justice series continues January 23 at Portland’s Alberta Rose Theatre with a conversation with three Pulitzer Prize finalists: Inara Verzemnieks, Kimberly A.C. Wilson, and Les Zaitz are all former writers for the Oregonian and mentors for Oregon Humanities’ Emerging Journalists, Community Stories fellowship. They’ll talk about the role of reporting and storytelling in pursuing more just communities.
At the March event, we’ll talk with novelist and journalist Omar El Akkad, author of the Oregon Book Award–winning book American War. And in May, Danielle Allen, a political scientist at Harvard University and author of the memoir Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A., will close out the series. Learn more about Think & Drink.
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