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StoryCorps In Kansas City — Getting Past Political Narratives To Find The Smaller Stories

Erica Stone and Bonjwing Lee had never met before they interviewed each other at KCUR.
KCUR 89.3 / StoryCorps
Erica Stone and Bonjwing Lee had never met before they interviewed each other at KCUR.

KCUR is part of StoryCorps' One Small Step initiative to bring together people of differing political opinions for real conversations. This is one we've chosen to highlight.

Ph.D. candidate Erica Stone doesn't talk about politics with her family much anymore. And when she does, it usually turns south fast.

"My dad will say things like ‘I hate all the liberals,’ I’m like, do you hate me? ‘No I don’t hate you, I hate all the liberals,'" Stone says. "And I’m like, I think you might hate me."

Photographer Bonjwing Lee is, ideologically, on the opposite end of the spectrum from Stone, but he understands her predicament. 

"I don't really talk that much about politics with my friends ... unless I feel that they're knowledgable and informed," Lee says. "The other reason why I'm shy to talk about politics openly is because I am more conservative."

Lee says he's in the "vast minority" among his peers, and bringing up politics leads to misunderstandings more often than not. Stone believes that's an issue of preconceived notions taking over before a real conversation can happen.

"As part of my research and dissertation ... I study the difference between small stories and grand narratives, and I really think those grand narratives, if you're conservative, are 'You're a bigot and you're racist,'" Stone says. 

"It's the cable news network narratives, you know?" Lee says. "The big cable news networks that like to paint broadly with either red or blue strokes."

"I really think if we could find a way to minimize those grand narratives and spotlight smaller stories and conversations like this ... I think we'd be in a much better place," Stone says.Ron Jones is KCUR's director of community engagement.

Matthew Long-Middleton is a community producer for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter@MLMIndustries.

Cody Newill is an audience development specialist for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter@CodyNewill.

Copyright 2021 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Cody Newill was born and raised in Independence, Missouri, and attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Cody won a Regional Edward R. Murrow award for his work curating kcur.org in 2017. But if you ask him, his true accomplishments lie in Twitter memes and using the term "Devil's lettuce" in a story.
Ron Jones returned to KCUR in September, 2013 as Director of Community Engagement. He leads a team that will focus on the arts, entrepreneurship, neighborhoods and community diversity. Its goal is to coordinate community conversations about important issues on-air, online and in person.
Matthew has been involved in media since 2003. While hosting a show on his college radio station, he quickly realized the influence, intimacy and joys of radio. After graduating from Kenyon College he had a brief stint as a short-order cook in exotic Gambier, Ohio. He then joined Murray Street Productions as the marketing manager. At Murray Street he also conducted interviews, produced podcasts, wrote scripts for Jazz at Lincoln Center Radio, and made the office computers hum. In addition to working at Murray Street, Matthew has done freelance radio production and his work has been featured on Chicago Public Radio’s local news program Eight Forty-Eight. He has also worked as a marketing assistant at WBGO in Newark, NJ, where he helped to grow audience through placing advertisements, managing the station social media, improving the website, building email campaigns and doing in person promotion at jazz events throughout New York and New Jersey. Matthew has won several awards for radio production including a Gold and Silver from the Kansas City Press Club in 2017. You can find Matthew bicycling around the city and the globe.