|The racial dialogue has four phases.
The dialogue design presented
here contains four phases that have proven useful in moving participants
through a natural process from sharing individual experiences to gaining a
deeper understanding of those experiences to committing to collective action.
Whether meeting for one dialogue session or a series of sessions, participants
move through all four phases, exploring and building on shared experiences. The
first phase sets the tone and explores the question Who Are We?
through the sharing of personal stories. The second phase helps participants
understand Where Are We? through a deeper exploration of personal
and shared racial history in the community During the third phase, participants
develop a vision for the community, in response to the question Where Do
We Want To Be? In the fourth phase, participants answer the question,
What Will We Do As Individuals and With Others To Make A
Difference? Often, they discover shared interests and start working
together on specific projects.
|Note: Throughout this section, a sample script for the dialogue leader is
noted in italics. A one page overview of a sample small group dialogue is
offered in Appendix A. Many dialogue leaders will want to read through the
suggested questions in this section, then develop questions tailor ed to the
needs of their particular groups. If your group is composed of people who are
experienced discussing complex racial issues with each other, the quotes in
Appendix A may be useful to quickly articulate a range of perspectives about
race and to stimulate discussion. A set of additional questions for each of the
four dialogue phases can be found in Appendix B.
You are ready to begin the dialogue.
Phase I: Who Are We?
This phase sets the tone and context for the dialogue, which begins with the
sharing of personal stories and experiences. In addition to serving an
ice-breaking function, this kind of personal sharing helps to level the playing
field among participants and improve their understanding by hearing each
Welcome, Introduction and Overview
(Suggested time-15 minutes)
It's not always easy to talk about race relations. A commitment to the
dialogue process---open, thoughtful, focused---will help us make progress. Your
presence here shows you want to help improve race relations in this community,
and just being here is an important step.
- Explain the purpose of the dialogue and the several phases involved.
- Discuss, clarify, and set ground rules (see page 15).
- Ask people to briefly introduce themselves.
- Give an overview of the session.
- Describe your role as dialogue leader (see page 15).
Starting the Dialogue
Often the most difficult part of talking about race is getting started.
People may feel uncomfortable at first and hesitant about expressing their
personal beliefs. To get people talking, it may help to relate personal stories
or anecdotes, or to bring up a race-related incident that has occurred within
Let's begin by looking at the first question: Who Are We?
By listening to one another's personal stories, we can gain insights into our
own beliefs and those of others, and come to new understandings of the issues
we face. By sharing our personal experiences, we can learn more about each
other as individuals and about how we have been influenced by our racial and/or
ethnic origins. We can also shed light on our different perceptions and
understandings of race relations.
Begin with questions that allow people to talk about their own lives and
what is important to them. Don't focus on race at first. Give people a chance
just to get to know each other as individuals and to find out what they have in
common. Examples of questions to use include--
- How long have you lived in this community?
- Where did you live before moving here?
- What are some of your personal interests?
- What things in life are most important to you?
|Note to dialogue leader: For groups of 15 people
or fewer, keep everyone together. Groups of more than 15 people should be
separated into smaller groups (3 to 5 people) for a few minutes, then brought
Explore how race affects us on a day-today basis. Examples of questions to
- What is your racial, ethnic and/or cultural background?
- Did you grow up mostly around people similar to you?
- What are some of your earliest memories of coming in contact with people
different from you?
Summarize the session at meeting's end.
Evaluate the meeting. Ask such questionsas-
- How did you feel about this meeting?
- Is there anything you would like to change?
Bring the meeting to an end and defuse any tensions. You might say, Thank
you for coming. Any final thoughts? Next week, we will ...
|Transition to Phase II: In preparation for the next
meeting, think about the following questions: When it comes to race, what
problems are we facing? What are the most serious challenges facing our
community, and what are the community's greatest strengths for dealing with
Phase II: Where Are We?
This phase explores questions that highlight our different experiences and
different perceptions about the kinds of problems our society is facing with
regard to race. This phase is about people expressing their different
understandings about race, then exploring the underlying conditions producing
them. It centers on the idea that it makes sense to talk about what we are
facing before we talk about solutions. By the end of this phase, participants
should have identified the themes, issues, and problems in their community.
Let's turn now to our second question: Where Are We? The purpose
of this section is to look at our current experiences of race and ethnicity and
to discuss the state of race relations in our community. Since this is the part
where we really get down to business as far as identifying the underlying
causes of any racial issues in our community, the discussion may get a little
heated at times. It is okay to feel uncomfortable, as that is part of the
difficult process of making change.
Begin with questions that get people to talk about their current
experiences with race relations. Examples include-
- How much and what type of contact do you have with people of other races
- Is it easier or harder than it was a few years ago to make friends of
other races? Why is that so?
|Note to dialogue leader: Be prepared for the
level of the conversation to intensify during this phase. Remember to reassure
participants that it is okay to feel agitated or uncomfortable, reminding them
of the ground rules when necessary (see Section 4, "The Role of the
Dialogue Leader," for more tips.)
Focus the dialogue on the state of race relations in the community Questions
to help get started include-
- How would you describe the overall state of race relations in our
- What are some of the underlying conditions affecting race relations in our
- In what ways do we agree and/or disagree about the nature of our racial
problems, what caused them, and how serious they are?
Summarize the session, evaluate it, andbring the meeting to an end.
|Transition to Phase III: In preparation for the
next session, think about the following questions: What can we do to make
progress in our community? When it comes to strategies to improve race
relations and to eliminate racism, what sorts of proposals do you know about?
Try to identify a broad range of possibilities. What are the pros and cons of
the various approaches? When it comes to race, what direction should our public
policies take? What goals and values should shape our policies?
Phase III: Where Do We WantTo Go?
The goal of this phase is to move away from the "me" and get
people to think and talk about possible directions for change. In this segment,
participants begin to build their collective vision. They first identify what
would be a part of that vision and then "brainstorm" about how they
could all help to build it (suggest "we" statements be used). By the
end of this session, participants should have identified accomplishments,
barriers to overcome, and opportunities for further action.
Let's turn our attention to the question, Where Do We Want To Go?
We share a common desire to improve race relations so let's talk about what we
mean by that and explore specific things we might do to achieve that goal.
Have participants talk about their vision of what they would like to see in
the community. You could ask questions such as
- How would you answer the question of where we want to go in race relations?
- If we had excellent race relations, what kinds of things would we see in
the community? Hear in the community? Feel?
Help participants to build their future vision. Ask questions like-
- What are the main changes that need to happen to increase understanding
and cooperative action across racial lines?
- What are some of the helping /hindering forces in our community?
|Note to dialogue leader: The heart of the
session is generating a range of viewpoints on how our society and community
might address and make progress on race relations. As you sift through the
views, remember to give a fair hearing to the ideas that come up.
Turn the dialogue to the question of what individuals can do towards
improving race relations. Ask questions like-
- What things have you seen that give you hope for improved race relations?
- What are some steps we could take to improve race relations in our
neighborhood? In our workplace? In our organizations? In our schools? In our
Explore the roles that the community's institutions and government play in
helping race relations. How could they do a better job?
Summarize the session, evaluate it, and bring the meeting to an end.
|Transition to Phase IV: I hope that you all have
begun to have a vision of what this community could look like if the positive
changes we've discussed were to actually take place. When we come back together
next session, we will be talking about what we can do as individuals and with
others to really make a difference. For the next session, think about these
questions: What kinds of concrete steps can you take in your everyday life-by
yourself and with others-to improve race relations in the community? What do
you think is most needed in this community?
Phase IV: What Will We Do, As Individuals and With Others,To Make a
The purpose of this session is to begin a productive conversation on
specific actions that individuals will take, by themselves or with others, to
make a difference in their communities. This session presents a range of
concrete actions for change.
While the racial issues we are facing in our communities sometimes seem
overwhelming, it is possible to make a difference. By participating in this
dialogue, you have already crossed the racial divide looking for better
understanding and strategies that work. The purpose of this session is to draw
out ideas for steps we can take-as individuals, in groups, and as a whole
community-to face the challenge of race-related issues.
Try to get participants to move from words to actions. Ask questions like--
- What is each of us personally willing to do to make a difference?
- How can you connect with others who share your concerns?
- Should we continue and expand this dialogue, get more people involved? How
could we do that?
- Are there other issues and concerns that we should address using
- What will we do to ensure follow-up?
Brainstorm action ideas with participants, recording their responses on a
flip chart. Share any follow-up plans.
Summarize the session, evaluate it, and bring the meeting to an end.
Pass out an evaluation form (see Section2, page 9, for possible questions).