A possible school project that includes activities with the aim to raise awareness of diversity in the educational system.
(1) Participants will learn the names of each person in the class, group, or community, as well as something about each person’s background.
(2) Participants will have a greater understanding and appreciation for the diversity within the group, while realizing that they have things in common with some of the people from whom they might have felt most distant.
Participants should sit in a circle for this exercise if possible. The facilitator should hand out a list of items for each participant to share with the group. Items could include name/nicknames, ethnic background, where they are from and where their parents were born, which generation they represent in the U.S. for their family, and one custom or tradition their family practices. Give participants time to record some of their initial thoughts on these items.
Before you begin the exercise, instruct the participants to identify one or two people in the group who they do not know and to think about what answers they expect from those people. This part is not to be shared among group members, but can help people realize how they formulate ideas about people based on appearance.
Now you are ready to begin. It is important to tell the group that each person will be limited to about two minutes in order for everyone’s voice to be heard. Once everyone has had an opportunity to share their information, ask the group to discuss what they have learned from the exercise.
2. Main activities
Sharing Stories: Prejudice Activity
(1) Help individuals explore how they first became conscious of prejudice and discrimination and the feelings associated with this consciousness.
(2) Make participants aware that everyone has experienced prejudice and discrimination and that it comes in a variety of forms (not just racial).
(3) Help participants understand the different between individual experiences of bias and systemic oppression.
Facilitators should divide the class into small groups of no larger than six members. Each participant is given the opportunity to relate four stories: (1) a time she or he experienced prejudice or discrimination; (2) a time she or he discriminated against somebody else; (3) a time she or he witnessed discrimination and did nothing about it; (4) a time she or he witnessed discrimination and did something about it.
Share observations in the large group. Although a lot of various experiences will be shared, be sure to take advantage of the last two prompts. What is it that leads us to act or choose not to act?
Circles of My Multicultural Self
This activity requires 20-30 minutes.
The Circles activity engages participants in a process of identifying what they consider to be the most important dimensions of their own identities. Stereotypes are examined as participants share stories about when they were proud to be part of a particular group and when it was especially hurtful to be associated with a particular group.
Distribute copies of the handout
Ask participants to pair up with somebody they do not know very well. Invite them to introduce themselves to each other, then follow these steps:
Ask participants to write their names in the center circle. They should then fill in each satellite circle with a dimension of their identity they consider to be among the most important in defining themselves. Give them several examples of dimensions that might fit into the satellite circles: female, athlete, Jewish, brother, educator, Asian American, middle class, and so on.
In their pairs, have participants share two stories with each other. First, they should share stories about when they felt especially proud to be associated with one of the identifiers they selected. Next, they should share a story about a time it was particularly painful to be associated with one of the identity dimensions they chose.
The third step will be for participants to share a stereotype they have heard about one dimension of their identity that fails to describe them accurately. Ask them to complete the sentence at the bottom of the handout by filling in the blanks:
“I am (a/an) ____________ but I am NOT (a/an) _____________.”
Provide your own example, such as “I am a Christian, but I am NOT a radical right Republican.” Instructions for steps 1, 2, and 3 should be given at once. Allow 8-10 minutes for participants to complete all three steps, but remind them with 2 minutes remaining that they must fill in the stereotype sentence.
Probe the group for reactions to each other’s stories. Ask whether anyone heard a story she or he would like to share with the group. (Make sure the person who originally told the story has granted permission to share it with the entire group.)
Advise participants that the next step will involve individuals standing up and reading their stereotype statements. You can simply go around the room or have people randomly stand up and read their statements. Make sure that participants are respectful and listening actively for this step, as individuals are making themselves vulnerable by participating. Start by reading your own statement. This part of the activity can be extremely powerful if you introduce it energetically. It may take a few moments to start the flow of sharing, so allow for silent moments.
Several questions can be used to process this activity:
How do the dimensions of your identity that you chose as important differ from the dimensions other people use to make judgments about you?
Did anybody hear somebody challenge a stereotype that you once bought into? If so, what?
How did it feel to be able to stand up and challenge your stereotype?
(There is usually some laughter when somebody shares common stereotype such as “I may be Arab, but I am not a terrorist” or “I may be a teacher, but I do have a social life.”) I heard several moments of laughter. What was that about?
Where do stereotypes come from? How are they connected to the kinds of socialiation that make us complicit with oppressive conditions?