Racial literacy is complicated and many of us—over the course of our upbringing and education—have had limited opportunity to engage with our racial narratives. This toolkit gives you a chance to work with colleagues to develop a trusting and safe space in which you can each share your race narrative. By making meaning out of the way race works in your personal life and your own community, you will become better equipped to discuss race and racial issues with your students.
- What does race mean to you?
- What is your racial narrative?
- How does your racial narrative impact your life and work as an educator?
1. Come together with a group of two to three colleagues to talk about what would make you feel safe discussing difficult, complicated and personal issues. Set guidelines for making your conversation a safe one for everyone involved. Make sure the guidelines include how you will show that you are listening to one another—without judgment—and for sharing stories in a way that will leave you feeling comfortable. Some guidelines might include speaking only from your own perspective, nodding your head to affirm that you are listening and so on.
2. Now, discuss as a group the following questions:
• When do you remember first noticing race and its role in your own life?
• How do you identify racially? What are some times that this identity has felt more or less important?
• What makes it easier or harder for you to talk about race?
3. Think about the idea of “racial narratives” introduced in “Hearing the Lion’s Story.” Break up and work independently to write your racial narrative. This could be done in many ways: a short story, a list of words that you associate with your racial identity or an essay about how you have come to understand yourself racially. As you write, jot down notes about other thoughts that come into your mind. What or whom are you thinking about? What makes this an interesting/challenging/easy task? What does it make you curious about?
4. Reconvene with your colleagues and give everyone a chance to share their racial narratives. Be sure to follow the guidelines you set up. Then, talk about the process and what it was like to construct these narratives.
5. Before closing, discuss these questions:
• How do your racial narratives impact your work as educators?
• How can you help your students feel safe and comfortable talking about race?
• How can you safely build opportunities for students to share their own racial narratives?