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It is not easy to have a well-reasoned discussion on the topic of race.

But that's exactly what we expect will happen Jan. 22 in downtown Bloomington, when the public is invited to meet with representatives of 11 groups in a community-police discussion about race, race relations and racism.

The Twin Cities' Not In Our Town anti-racism group was re-energizing last summer just as Ferguson, Mo., erupted after a white police officer shot a black man. As NIOT discussions continued, the nation watched police-involved deaths take place in Ohio and New York.

And a week ago, just as NIOT and 10 other groups announced their event, a recording of a Bloomington police officer's racial comments from a 2013 incident were played at a trial, leaving little doubt as to the officer's feelings.

Non-discrimination is a belief system that must be practiced by everyone for it to be successful and for it to spread beyond our municipal borders.

It was just last month when NIOT started a pledge drive, asking community members to sign a card agreeing to fight hatred and discrimination in the Twin Cities.

As we said then, true change starts at the grassroots level. And that includes respectful, open, truthful conversation about what works, what doesn't, and why.

The success of a local discussion on race will not be immediate; to start, we must look each other in the eye, speak and harbor respectful thoughts, agree on the problems and try to fix them.

As with any discussion on a difficult topic, there could be finger-pointing and blame. It must be accepted, at the outset, that hurtful words may be said. But once the air clears, the community must agree to work together to pinpoint issues and find ways to address them.

Part of that dialogue could be learning about police policies and training. Equally important is hearing from those who feel judged because of their color, age, employment, religion or background.

Without that information, we run the risk of staying "mind blind" — that is, limiting our responses based on individual beliefs rather than from shared knowledge.

Willfully neglecting to learn about our differences and appreciate our similarities is childish. We must learn about one another to better understand one another. That can lead to a better community.

Our community must step up to step forward.

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