The Race Project continued

When I said mildly obsessed I wasn’t exaggerating.  I find these Race Cards to be moving and powerful and unsettling and inspiring.  Michael Bolton (not that Michael Bolton) and Bill Rowe, you really got to me. What a genius project.  It is a brilliant way of taking the racial temperature of an America with a huge population of “Millennials” who think in 160 character blurbs and who we hope are the “raceless” generation.  Of course we Gen X-ers and the Boomers, and even the Builders have Millennial tendencies, so no one should feel excluded from this.  This isn’t for Generation Y, but when you’re taking the racial pulse at The University of Michigan, you will get a sense of how to close to “raceless” our youngest adults are.


Click HERE to submit your own Race Card.  I’d love to hear which 6 words you chose, so please leave it in the comment section below if you feel inclined to share.  I’m crafting one myself.  Right now I’ve got:

  • Believing in race ensures potential’s waste
  • Race is a mask, lie, excuse
  • Race brings judgement made in haste
  • Race causes unnecessary confusion of spirit

I think I like the last one best.  I think the ones the rhyme are cheesy.  I think the word race probably doesn’t have to be in it, so I need to start thinking outside of the box I’m currently stuck in on this one.

Here are a few of the ones that intrigued me most.  Of course, I was drawn to the “interracial” ones for obvi reasons.  There are so many intriguing entries to dig through on the Race Card Project website.

We are treated how we look.











Kimberly Dorsey

Detroit, MI

I am bi-racial and have been raised in a white family inside Detroit. I have suffered many racially motivated injustices in my travels and it makes me angry when people pretend race doesn’t matter. It matters when you are the one being discriminated against.

Yes, they are my REAL kids

Paul David Binkley
Delaware, OH

My wife of twenty two years and I are interracially married, she black and myself white.

Over our years together we have dealt with countless thoughtless comments and questions.

Here is one such event recalled here to explain my six word story.

A few years back, when our youngest still fit in a grocery cart, I was shopping alone with the three of them, engrossed in a price comparison, when an older woman approached and asked bluntly, “are those your kids?”

Wincing, I glanced over at them. My oldest daughter was tracing the colorful letters of a cereal box with her finger. My son was standing with his binkly in his mouth and fingers of one hand gripping the cart. And my baby girl was just sitting there quiet, not even remotely misbehaving.

Reconsidering her question. “Are those your kids,” I realized its true nature. Thinking myself clever, I answered, “Would I bring them to the grocery store if they weren’t?”

To which she humorlessly rejoindered, “No. I mean are they your REAL kids?”

Too desensitized to be deeply offended, I gritted my teeth and answered plainly, “Yes, they are my REAL kids.”

How to protect my black son?


Michael Bolton
Scottsdale, AZ
Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan

Dad Caucasian. lived life in black neighborhood mostly. studied black history–college+leisure. love black culture esp music, classic jazz. slave narratives. am black myself but cannot pass as such. other dad, my partner, black, died. am now single dad, not planned. bringing up son in white priviledged neighborhood. not me, not him, we’re poor, but we’re here. avoiding ‘young black males’=main cause of death for ‘young black males’. life so cheap for ‘young black males’. not *my* son. i miss diversity.


With blacks come crime and decay.

Bunny Vee
Philadelphia, PA

Called my friend nigger. Ashamed forever.

Bill Rowe
Bucks County, PA

It was 1971 and I was ashamed the moment I said it. Jeff was a friend and to impress the wrong person I said something terrible. What impresses me to this day is the way that he responded. He just said “you don’t mean that” and never said another word. If I read the situation correctly, Jeff forgave the unforgivable. I have never been able to forgive my behavior and I am ashamed to this day of what I did. I moved to another school the following year and we lost contact. I never apologized and wish that I could.
Jeff, wherever you are, I have two 6 word sentences for you. You are the epitome of grace. I’m sorry beyond power of words.


Michigan plays The Race Card: Go Blue

In the last three years, I have not been racially focused.  I suppose, then, that it should come as no surprise to me that I had never heard of The Race Card Project until yesterday.  And then yesterday I became mildly obsessed with it.  And with it’s creator Michele Norris. If scheduling will allow, I just might finally make the return to my alma mater for the final events in April. I am so thrilled that this is happening in Ann Arbor, and I look forward to the “results.” How do college students feel and/or think about race in 2013.  Will these race cards be vastly different from those of older generations?  Are they full of dismay, anxiety, and cowardice?  Or are they the boldly outspoken, “color blind” generation we’ve been waiting for?  I’d place my money on the former.  No offense to the Millennials, I just don’t think we’ve come that far.  Yet.

Inspiring a deeper, revealing conversation

U-M first university to participate in innovative Race Card Project

March, 2013

In the last three years, thousands of people across the U.S. have participated in the Race Card Project, an innovative social-issue undertaking created by award-winning journalist Michele Norris. The project gathers participants’ six-word descriptions of their view of race written on postcards or online forms. Based on the range, quality and number of collected responses, the Twitter-like approach to such a weighty topic is inspiring a deeper and revealing conversation.


On Tuesday, March 12, Norris (photo left) arrives in Ann Arbor to meet with students, faculty and staff in a formal kick-off of the Race Card Project at the University of Michigan, marking the first partnership between the project and an American university. Cards will be distributed to students at U-M’s Law School, Michigan Union, Haven Hall, and Diag on central campus, and Pierpont Commons on north campus.

“Despite all the talk about America’s consternation or cowardice when it comes to talking about race, I seemed to have found auditorium after auditorium full of people who were more than willing to unburden themselves on this prickly topic,” said Norris, who returns to campus April 18 when thousands of expected filled-in race cards will be displayed on U-M’s iconic Diag. On that day, she will also conduct a town-hall forum on race at Rackham Auditorium.

U-M’s participation in the Race Card Project comes amid a semester-long exploration of race coordinated by the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. The theme semester, “Understanding Race Project,” examines the many notions of race through an extensive range of public exhibits, performances, lectures, symposia and more than 130 courses in several disciplines designed to explore the concept and implications of race.

For more information on U-M’s theme semester, please visit:

“The Race Card Project is a compelling and novel approach to gather people’s immediate reactions and attitudes about race,” said Martha Jones, co-chair of U-M’s Understanding Race Project theme semester, and associate professor of Afroamerican and African Studies and History. “Bringing Michele Norris to campus connects U-M and our work educating students about race into the nonacademic, social world where discourse about race might be less formal, but profoundly revealing,” said Jones, who is also co-chair of the Program on Race, Law and History at U-M’s Law School.

During her upcoming two-day visit to campus, Norris will host a Race Card dialogue with U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and her executive officers, who will submit their own six-word descriptions on race, ethnicity and cultural identity. In addition, she will meet with students, who are circulating the postcards on campus.

U-Mich Race Card Project Events

  • Tuesday, March 12, 2013. 10:30 – 11:30 AM. A Race Card Dialogue with President Mary Sue Coleman and Michele Norris. Press opportunity to follow.
  • Monday, April 15 – Friday, April 19. Race Card Installation in Shapiro Undergraduate Library.
  • Thursday, April 18, 2013. 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM. Race Card Installation on the Diag.
  • Thursday, April 18, 2013. 4:00 – 6:00 PM. Reading and Race Card Town Hall with Michele Norris. Rackham Auditorium.
  • Friday, April 19, 2013. 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM. A Race Card Dialogue with Michele Norris. Arthur Miller Theater. North Campus. Hosted by CEDO, the Center for Engineering Diversity and Outreach.
  • Friday, April 19, 2013. 1:00 – 3:00 PM. A Race Card dialogue with Michele Norris. Alumni Center.
  • Friday, April 19, 2013. 4:00 – 6:00 PM. A Race Card dialogue with Michele Norris. Law School South Hall. Sponsored by the Michigan Law Program in Race, Law & History.

Norris is currently National Public Radio guest host and special correspondent. She is a former news correspondent for ABC NEWS, and a frequent guest on “Meet the Press” and “Chris Matthews Show.”

In 2009, the National Association of Black Journalists named Norris Journalist of the Year. During her career, she co-hosted NPR’s Democratic presidential candidate debates, covered Republican and Democratic conventions, and moderated a series of conversations with voters on the intersection of race and politics.

Race and identity are the focus of Norris’ personal account, “The Grace of Silence: A Memoir,” published in 2010. In the book, she delves into family secrets that raise questions about her racial legacy.



More on Norris and The Race Card Project:

Michele Norris to Return to NPR in New Role


entire article

…Ms. Norris left her position (as host for NPR) in October 2011 when her husband, Broderick Johnson, joined President Obama’s re-election campaign as a senior adviser. At that time she thought she’d return to “All Things Considered” after the campaign. But then, during her leave of absence, she poured herself into The Race Card Project, something she had started while on a book tour in 2010 to spur conversations about race.

The project invited participants to distill their thoughts about race to six words and submit them on postcards or on social networking Web sites. “I asked people to think about their experiences, their observations, their triumphs, their laments,” she said. To date she has received more than 12,000 submissions, conveying messages like these:

— “My skin makes my life easier.”

— “Waiting for race not to matter.”

— “Don’t vote for that black guy.”

— “I am a conservative, not racist!”

— “Who do you mean by ‘they?’“

— “Underneath, we all taste like chicken.”

“At some point I realized I couldn’t walk away from it,” Ms. Norris said in a telephone interview Thursday, describing how she “accidentally tripped into this next chapter of my career.”

But hosting “All Things Considered” is “all-encompassing,” Ms. Norris said, and she wouldn’t have had enough time to devote to follow-up interviews with the respondents and features about race. So she and Ms. Smith conceived a new role for her that will include Web and radio segments related to The Race Card Project; profiles and in-depth segments about politics, the kind she has produced for years; and guest-hosting opportunities.

long awaited unfinished second novel

I remember reading Invisible Man at the University of Michigan and being uncomfortable wanting to discuss the biracial aspect in my African American studies class.  I did it anyway and of course came up against some opposition.  But I held my ground.  That was probably my first clue that this topic and the ensuing debate would become a passion of mine.

‘Important day for American literature’

CU prof helps publish Ralph Ellison’s unfinished novel

The Associated Press

BOULDER — Adam Bradley was a freshman in college and taking an African-American literature course when he first read “Invisible Man,” a novel that vivified America’s racial divide.

The book changed his life.

Ralph Ellison’s classic novel helped Bradley explore the complexity of his own biracial identity.

Adam Bradley is an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

It also shaped the direction of his career, as Bradley became a writer and scholar — spending 15 years conducting the literary detective workneeded to bring Ellison’s second novel to fruition.

Ellison’s incomplete, posthumous piece “Three Days Before the Shooting … : The Unfinished Second Novel” goes on sale Tuesday (2/2/20).

Bradley, a University of Colorado associate professor, is one of two editors who made the book’s release possible.

In the book, a racist, “white” U.S. senator is assassinated by a black man who, it turns out, is the senator’s son. The senator’s surrogate father, who is black, tries in vain to save the senator.

“I’m feeling this tremendous degree of excitement at the prospect of sharing this book with Ellison’s readers,” Bradley said.

Bradley said he’s received e-mails from people who read “Invisible Man” in the 1950s and have since been waiting for a second book from Ellison.

“It’s an important day for American literature,” Bradley said.

He said that because the novel is incomplete, it prompts readers to become co-creators of the fiction.

“It’s a natural response — when presented with an incomplete story — to complete the story yourselves,” Bradley said. “

At the same time, it presents another opportunity to come to terms with indeterminacy.”

Later this year, Bradley will teach a CU graduate seminar on Ellison, and Yale University Press will publish “Ralph Ellison in Progress,” his critical exploration of Ellison’s fiction.

Ellison died in 1994, leaving behind 27 boxes of manuscript for his second novel that included handwritten notes, typewritten pages and 460-some computer files.

Just two months before his death, Ellison told The New Yorker Magazine that he was working on the second novel and that “there will be something very soon.”

As an undergraduate at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., Bradley became intrigued with Ellison, whose father died when he was a child.

A character in “Invisible Man” tells the protagonist: “Be your own father, young man.”

The rich theme of father-son relationships struck Bradley, who was raised by his white mother and met his black father for the first time in his 20s.

“Ellison was a clarifying voice for me during that part of my life,” Bradley said.

His professor at Lewis & Clark — John Callahan — happened to be a friend of Ellison’s and executor of Ellison’s estate.

Callahan, impressed with Bradley, asked him to co-edit the second novel.

At age 19, Bradley began cataloging Ellison’s writings. He earned his Ph.D. in English and American literature and language from Harvard University before fully devoting himself to the project.

In 1999, Callahan released a small portion of Ellison’s second novel in a work titled “Juneteenth.”

Today’s release of “Three Days Before the Shooting …” will give readers their first view of the most complete and cohesive version of Ellison’s magnum opus.


interracial roommates

I just read this New York Times article by Tamar Lewin on the benefits of having a college roommate of a different race.  I’m not at all surprised that are some pros to this situation.  I was surprised by the admission here that campuses have been intentionally segregating students.  The piece makes it clear, but without judgement.  I find it appalling. I would LOVE to make Ohio State out to be the bad guy here, but this practice became apparent to me at my orientation for the University of Michigan which was only attended by incoming minorities, and even more clear when I was placed in an unofficial black dorm on a different campus from all of my classes and all of my friends from high school that were Going Blue.  You see, if having a roommate of a different race reduces racial prejudices, we could be so much farther along in eradicating these race issues if the schools hadn’t been keeping people apart.


Interracial Roommates Can Reduce Prejudice

As a freshman at Ohio State University, and the only black student on his floor, Sam Boakye was determined to get good grades — in part to make sure his white roommate had no basis for negative racial views.

“If you’re surrounded by whites, you have something to prove,” said Mr. Boakye, now a rising senior who was born in Ghana. “You’re pushed to do better, to challenge the stereotype that black people are not that smart.”

Several recent studies, at Ohio State and elsewhere, have found that having a roommate of a different race can reduce prejudice, diversify friendships and even boost black students’ academic performance. But, the research found, such relationships are more stressful and more likely to break up than same-race pairings.

As universities have grown more diverse, and interracial roommate assignments are more common, social scientists have looked to them as natural field experiments that can provide insights on race relations.

…Several studies have shown that living with a roommate of a different race changes students’ attitudes. One, from the University of California at Los Angeles, generally found decreased prejudice among students with different-race roommates — but those who roomed with Asian-Americans, the group that scored the highest on measures of prejudice, became more prejudiced themselves.

Professionals who watch over roommate relationships say that interracial roommate assignments are an important part of campus diversity.

…One new study, of Princeton students, used daily questionnaires to monitor roommate interactions and perceptions.

“In the earliest weeks of the relationship, the positive emotions declined for minority students with white roommates,” said Mr. Trail, an author of the study. “It wasn’t that the white students started being mean or negative. Instead, it was a drop-off in positive behaviors, like smiling or making eye contact, that led the minority students to feel worse.”

“Just having diversity in classrooms doesn’t do anything to increase interracial friendships,” said Claudia Buchmann, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State… “But the intimacy of living together in residence halls, with no roommate, or a different-race roommate, does lead to more interracial friendships.”

Minority students in a predominantly white environment, she said, often cocoon themselves by clustering together. Both black and white resident advisers at Ohio State said it was common for black freshmen to seek out other black students.

“There are organizations on campus specifically designed to help minority students, and oftentimes minority students try to find their friends through those groups,” said Ellen Speicher, an Ohio State resident adviser who is white and a rising junior. “It makes sense, on a predominantly white campus.”

Mr. Boakye, a resident adviser for two years. said there was comfort in clustering.

“Being a minority at Ohio State, we try to stay together, to build ourselves as a community,” Mr. Boakye said. “It’s different for white guys.

“A lot of them come here without much exposure to diversity,” he said, “so when their first experience with a black guy isn’t so bad, they go and make more black friends. I think I made a good impression on my freshman roommate. When I saw him this year, he said, ‘Hey dude, you’re not the only black friend I have.’ That felt good.”