For the past several weeks, there have been many discussions about race and discrimination on campus. These discussions have centered around the Race Card Project, started by reporter and author Michele Norris in 2010, and then facilitated on campus by Dr. Elissa Weichbrodt.
The purpose of this project is to encourage discussions and conversations about race in order to, not only increase understanding, but to fight against discrimination and racism. Participants were asked to write on index cards six words about their experience with or thoughts on race. In addition to encouraging students in her classes to participate, Dr. Weichbrodt also worked with other students on campus, such as those in the Multicultural Program. For several days, tables were set up in Carter lobby so that anyone could fill out a race card. So far, hundreds of anonymous perspectives have been submitted.
On Thursday night, November 16, Dr. Weichbrodt led discussions on several individual race cards that were submitted. About one hundred and thirty students, faculty, and staff members attended and discussed their thoughts on these cards. Roughly 80 percent of these in attendance were female. With such a large number of attendees, everyone was randomly broken up into smaller groups of four or five people.
To begin the evening, she explained the difference between race and ethnicity. “Race” includes biological traits, and is linked with intelligence, health, and morality. “Ethnicity” refers to nationality, culture, heritage, history, language, religion, food art, and dress. Knowing that these topics she was bringing up were difficult to address, Dr. Weichbrodt pointed out, “Jesus doesn’t equate sanctification with things being easy… God has not given us a spirit of fear, but love.” She went on, “If we’re afraid of failure, we’re denying our own finitude…We need to lower our expectations… Learning is a slow process.”
Several of the cards that Dr. Weichbrodt chose to spark conversations had the following thought-provoking perspectives: “Why is it always about race?” “Stop believing my freedom means (your) oppression.” “Because I’m white, I wouldn’t understand.” “Ethnic ambiguity isn’t for your amusement.” “So, where does forgiveness fit in?” Attendees of the Thursday night discussion were asked to explain to their groups why they agreed or disagreed with the cards, and then to ask each other follow up questions.
The purpose of the evening, as Dr. Weichbrodt pointed out, is not to try and solve any of the hurt, pain, and suffering caused by racism and discrimination in the United States and elsewhere, but to simply start conversations that need to happen. For additional information, Dr. Weichbrodt recommended the following books: Heal Us Emmanuel, by Doug Serven; Prophetic Lament, by Soong-Chan Rah; Disunity in Christ, by Christena Cleveland; We Gon’ Be Alright, by Jeff Chang; and Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram Rendi. She also recommended the following podcasts: Truth’s Table, and Pass the Mic.