It’s All in the Cards

I never thought I’d say this, but Twitter has opened my eyes to so much.

Shortly after I (reluctantly) joined the site, I discovered freedom that I didn’t have on Facebook. Things were kept short and sweet and I was able to be more selective about what types of information came into my timeline (you can follow me, but I don’t have to follow you). I began following Michele Norris, an award-winning journalist and host of NPR’s All Things Considered, after Twitter suggested I follow her. I also follow a number of scholars and I noticed her name was popping up more and more in some their tweets. Aside from her thoughtful, short and sweet commentary on the news and culture, it was her latest project that really inspired me.

During the book tour for her novel, The Grace of Silence, Norris began passing out postcards asking people to submit six-word essays that summarized their thoughts race. The cards were originally meant to be supplemental to her book and function as conversation starters, but the cards began overflowing her mailbox and The Race Card Project was born. The cards, like Twitter, convey feelings about deeply seeded beliefs, values, pain, and promise within the limited parameters of a 4×6 postcard. While most of the cards Michele Norris has received are about American racial disparities, the project has gone international and she has noted that she has received cards from places like Australia, London, Chile, and Abu Dhabi.  The Race Card Project honestly exposes the way people feel about something that affects their everyday lives in a way that reminds me of the Kinsey surveys on sexuality. In light of recent attempts to eliminate Ethnic Studies, The Race Card Project website includes suggestions for educators to adapt the project and include it in their own curriculums.

While it seems like some people feel like the best way to move past racism is to not talk about it and attempt to become a “post-racial” society, I vehemently disagree. The inability to discuss race and racism in a critical but constructive manner perpetuates the stereotypes that lead to incidents like the Trayvon Martin shooting. How can we learn to move beyond racism if we aren’t even willing to acknowledge its existence and talk about it? While some of the things on the cards come across as abrasive, having these honest conversations will only help us open our eyes and move forward. Norris explains,

Talking about race is like cooking with onions. Sometimes it makes you cry. Sometimes it deepens the flavor. Sometimes it just gives you a wicked case of indigestion. Sometimes, all of the above and more.

I’ve submitted a few times to the race card project and I encourage everyone to check it out. You are welcome to submit your own six-word essays on race, either through the Race Card Project website or to Michele Norris directly via twitter (@MicheleNorris) using the hashtag #TheRaceCardproject.

by Folashade Kornegay (@AfiXoese)

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