Missouri State University students use 'Tough Talks' to discuss racial tension

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KSPR) -- It's known as 'Tough Talks' at Missouri State University's Strong Hall. Around 25 students met to talk about racial protests around the country and its impact on race relations here in the Ozarks.

"I mean the most important takeaway I had was seeing people of all different races come together," says Alex Jefferson.

He is a student at Missouri State. Jefferson attended the 'Tough Talks' discussions Wednesday.

"Not solve any problems or solutions but hearing each other talk and their opinions and experiences, I really think that's big," said Jefferson.

He says issues about race impact everyone.

"It's tough when I drive home to my apartment sometimes you see people with confederate flags in the back of their trucks and stuff like that but I mean there's also other times there's people that accept me who are of different race than I am and we have no problems. the best way you know how someone relates to race is if they don't know you," says Jefferson.

"It's a place for people to simply have a conversation," says MSU professor Scott Worman.

He also attended and says the reason behind these series of discussions is important.

"Get conversations going because obviously there's a lot of tension and obviously it's really bothering people," says Worman.

"Our relations in our country are at an all-time low, I don't think they can get much lower," says Springfield NAACP's Cheryl Clay. "I would hope and pray to think there is a solution."

MSU Professor Lyle Foster hosts the Tough Talks. Foster said the key is to look deeper, about why racial protests are taking place around the country, including from NFL players, and he said poverty is one reason.

"I honestly know there are a lot of tremendous people in our local community who are saying we want to be a positive, we want to make a difference," says Foster. "So it's really just a chance to ask those questions about what is going on?"

"Just the simple fact of hearing can help us shape our own understandings and ideals on how things should work in this country and I think it's really helpful," Jefferson added.

Students tell KSPR it's all about open communication, people coming together to talk about these racial issues as a way to move forward and improve race relations.