How to have better conversations about race

'When we can look at how race is done, it inspires us to undo racism.'

Because starting conversations around race, ethnicity and social justice can be difficult, Stanford University has launched RaceWorks, a free online resource for higher ed instructors teaching racial literacy.

RaceWorks features a series of short videos in which Stanford scholars from various disciplines explore how people “do race” and ways to “undo racism.” An accompanying digital toolkit provides discussion questions and activities.

RaceWorks was inspired by surging student interest in immigration, the Black Lives Matter movement, the representation of various ethnic groups in the arts and related social justice topics, project director MarYam Hamedani says.

“When we show up to conversations about race, we need to know what we mean by that term because it can signal a lot of things,” says Hamedani, who is also managing director of SPARQ, a Stanford think tank focused on behavioral science and diversity.

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“When we see race as something we do, we can step away from some of the blame and see the social patterns that we’re a part of,” Hamedani says. “When we can look at how race is done, it inspires us to undo racism.”

Among activities recommended by RaceWorks is keeping a race diary, in which individuals can keep track of incidents in their daily lives that have been impacted by race.

The project also encourages people to examine whether policies at their schools or workplaces result in inequitable or unequal treatment.

RaceWorks will be especially useful with most college instructors now teaching online, says Jennifer Brody, faculty director of Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity.

It can also be used by alumni groups, neighborhood associations and other organizations that want to have more productive conversations about race, inclusion and tolerance, Brody says.

“Fighting racism means we need to take responsibility and recognize the history we all are share, and learn how to talk about it in a setting that puts people more on common ground,” Brody says.

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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