John Zinsser talks risk at Creative Mornings

Connection > separation


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  • Connelly Hardaway
At today's Charleston Creative Mornings (CMCHS), a monthly lecture-breakfast series, John Zinsser took the mic to talk about the topic of risk. A TEDx alum, Zinsser was introduced to the audience as a "human relations catalyst," which I took to mean "motivational speaker." A little research reveals that Zinsser has a master's degree in conflict resolution, and he often facilitates group events to aid human interaction. He began his talk with a single question: "Do you have 20 minutes to save the world?" I was skeptical.

What started off as vague, motivational kind of talk — you can never take the same risk twice, the ultimate risk is deciding who to trust, the media affects how we think about risk, etc. — turned into something very tangible. Zinsser introduced facts and figures about non-citation traffic stops in Charleston and North Charleston in 2014.

The discussion of police stops, especially as they relate to the city's African-American residents, has been discussed recently, with the P&C saying that traffic stops in North Charleston dropped by 51 percent in the past year after Walter Scott's death in April, 2015.

In this light, Zinsser's figures from 2014 are a little less striking, but they certainly get the point across: if you are an African-American driver in Charleston or North Charleston, you are more likely to get pulled over than a white driver.

"What if the risk you're running into is something you have no control over?" asked Zinsser. His talk, which started on the "me, myself, and I" level, quickly gained momentum as it became about something larger — who we are or who others may be might be the riskiest thing of all, for you/they have no choice in the matter.

He quoted Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, who says, "Put your hand on the injured and the struggling. That's risk." It's this suggestion — to connect with others — that Zinsser hammered home in the last few minutes of his talk. He says, "We have to take the risk of connection. Every form of violence is a type of separation." 

A good way to start connecting? Find out how you can get involved with Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative here. 


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