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Grassroots Wisdom Book

Race Card Project

“They’re playing the race card.” Maybe you’ve heard that phrase before. Usually, it has negative connotations, suggesting that responses to racial injustice and inequity are unfounded, are an over-reaction, are used by racially marginalized individuals and populations to unfairly gain advantage. Author, Peabody award-winning journalist, and self-proclaimed “instigator” Michele Norris turns that phrase on its head with her Race Card Project and related book Our Hidden Conversations: What Americans Really think about Race and Identity.  

You may be familiar with Ms. Norris as the host of NPR’s All Things Considered, but even if you aren’t you might want to familiarize yourself with this project. Her Race Card Project is a more-than-decade-long effort, started in 2010, to truly listen to how individuals identify, racially and ethnically, through a series of six-word statements shared on digital and physical “race cards.” The intention of this project was to initiate dialogue and for participants and readers to gain awareness of how complex and beautiful racial identity really is. According to The Race Card Project website, Norris has collected “more than 500,000 personal narratives, from all 50 states and 96 countries.” It’s easy to see why this project earned Michele Norris a Peabody awared. It’s simply gorgeous! Don’t believe me? Check out these Race Card examples: Explore the Race Card Project!

The blurb about Norris’ book Our Hidden Conversations begins, “The prompt seemed simple: Race. Your Thoughts. Six Words. Please Send.” However, “The breadth of this work came as a surprise to Norris. For most of the twelve years she has collected these stories, many were submitted by white respondents. This unexpected panorama provides a rare 360-degree view of how Americans see themselves and one another.” What insights might we gain from reading this collection? About the struggles others face that are invisible to us? About our shared humanity? About where we might come to understand each other better? 

If you’re interested, you can still be part of this amazing project by sharing your six-word story here: Make Your Race Card. If you want to take the concept even further, why not start a book club or local library event around Our Hidden Conversations and/or collecting local Race Cards? What else could you do with this idea to make it meaningfully “yours”? 



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