Journalist Michele Norris talks race at RCAH
Michele Norris, a former co-host of NPR’s show “All Things Considered” and Peabody Award winner, spoke to students Monday afternoon in the intimate setting of the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities Theatre in the basement of Snyder-Phillips Hall.
Norris’s talk centered around The Race Card Project, which she said invites people to participate in a conversation about race that is candid, revealing, often painful, but often enlightening.
“It’s hard to talk about race ... because we keep saying it’s hard to talk about race,” Norris said.
After writing her first book, The Grace of Silence: A Memoir, Norris said she went on tour and began the project as a way to spark a conversation, often leaving her black postcards at airports and bookshops during her book tour.
“We ask people to send in their thoughts about race in just six words,” Norris said “I didn’t know if people would do it, but rather immediately the cards started to come back.”
Not long after that, Norris said, the cards got so interesting she wanted to display them. Thus, a rudimentary website was born that has been updated and upgraded into the interactive site that it is now.
“As a journalist, it was just a goldmine to be able to get close to conversations that just wouldn’t be possible (otherwise),” Norris said.
Several students in the audience participated by sharing their six words about race and the stories attached to them.
One student chose the words, “culture, division, maturity, confusion, wisdom, responsibility” to describe their thoughts on race.
Norris, herself, shared a sentiment about race with the audience. She said she often found herself as the first, the only, or one of a small group of individuals like herself in her business.
Norris said, “It can feel like a burden always having to represent.”
When asked about advice for others who need encouragement to join the conversation, Norris said, “Be patient. Give them space to tell their story. And be curious. You can honor someone with your curiosity.”
Afterward, RCAH freshman Allison Doxey said her reaction to the talk, particularly the discussion about cruel comments on stories posted on Norris’ website, was that if you have not experienced different treatment due to your race, then maybe you should not be part of the conversation.
RCAH junior and intercultural aide Michelle Perkowski said she took away the idea that there are different ways to get others involved in conversations about race who might not think it is in their best interest to participate or feel they don’t have anything to share or learn about it.
Perkowski also said she went to get more information for the Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience group she is part of, which helps increase knowledge and understanding of what they can do to contribute to positive race relations in their lives and their communities.
Perkowski said she hopes attending this event will help her to facilitate discussion among people attending.
“Everyone has a right to tell their story,” Norris said. “Some voices may be louder. Some voices may be greater in number, but all voices are valid."