Podcast series aims to unite the country

Conversation between Muslim student Amina Amdeen and Trump supporter Joseph Weinknecht (Courtesy: YouTube)

In a time where it seems as though America is more divided than ever, a nonprofit organization has been working to create conversations between those who have differences politically.

StoryCorps, which was established in 2003 to showcase real human stories, created a series called One Small Step in 2018 as the country was becoming increasingly divided.

Like its other initiatives, One Small Step gathers recorded 40-minute interviews between people on opposite sides of the aisle, challenging them to talk about everything except politics.

This past year, One Small Step has organized conversations between residents in places such as Wichita, KS; Birmingham, AL; Richmond, VA; and Shreveport LA, communities known for being politically divided.

“Every day brings new evidence of the rage Americans feel towards each other.” said StoryCorps Founder and President Dave Isay in a press release. “Our hope is that One Small Step, in these cities and across the country, will remind all Americans of the humanity in all of us, and that it’s hard to hate up close.”

Some of the conversations thus far have paired up a young Muslim female named Amina Amdeen and a Donald Trump supporter named Joseph Weinknecht whose worlds collided at a protest outside the University of Texas against the results of the 2016 election. Weinknecht was a counter-protester at the event, whose “Make America Great Again” hat was knocked off by a protester.

Two participants with opposing views take part in a One Small Step conversation (Courtesy Photo)

The moment set off Amdeen, who has had her hijab removed without her permission in the past.

“I noticed you with the hat,” she said to Weinknecht, “I noticed you were surrounded by some people, and then somebody snatched your hat off your head. And that’s when something snapped inside of me.”

She then described how she rushed over in that moment to protect Weinknecht from harassment.

Weinknecht pointed out her act of kindness in that moment, and how it allowed him to look past his negative perceptions of Muslim people based on what he was hearing on TV.

“I don’t think we could be any further apart as people, and yet it was like this common ‘that’s not ok’ moment,” he said. “You are genuinely the only Muslim person I know.”

“I’ve just never been in a position where I could interact for an extended period of time,” he went on to say. “I guess my views on the Muslim community have been influenced by the news articles.”

Amdeen then pointed out how often the media can miss showcasing Muslims in an everyday light. They then went on to find other commonalities in a two-minute clip that is available on StoryCorps’ YouTube page.

Overall, more than 800 people across 40 cities have gathered for these interviews since the project was launched three years ago. Each interview will be preserved by the Library of Congress as a historical record.

One Small Step is funded by various organizations such as Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg’s The Wunderkinder Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Charles Koch Institute.

For more information, visit https://storycorps.org/discover/onesmallstep

Published by Mallika Rao

Freelance Writer, Blogger

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