What's Race Got to Do with It?



  1. Watch the video privately before conducting the program. Note your own reactions to the film and any personal sensitivities and concerns. Allow this information to serve as a caution when facilitating the group.
  2. Consider two facilitators (ideally, a gender and racially balanced pair) to model trust, open inquiry, respect and cooperation. One might monitor emotional or group processes while the other guides content, activities and discussion.
  3. Read the background materials and resources on our Web site to develop your understanding of institutional racism, educational disparities and other “hot-button” issues that you think might arise. Find out how these are playing out on your campus. Consider handing out a glossary of racial terms; introduce relevant facts and figures as appropriate (e.g., enrollment & graduation rates).
  4. Establish realistic goals and expectations. Consider your group’s interests and vulnerabilities. Focus discussion outcomes – where are you going? At the same time, create a sense of possibility or opportunity.
  5. Ask participants to join in creating “Group Agreements” such as the following:
    • Maintain confidentiality.
    • Take turns speaking; listen to each other with respect.
    • Use "I" statements; speak about your own thoughts and experiences, not those of others.
    • Avoid cross talk; do not debate someone else’s personal experience. Rather, speak to your own understanding.
    • Frame comments as questions.
    • Acknowledge that each of us brings different perspectives and experiences and is at a different stage of development in addressing individual, interpersonal and institutional racism.
  6. Create safety by engaging in low-risk discussion/activities (e.g., reflective writing, anonymous questions/comments, dyads/pair and share, discussing the film, posing questions) before moving on to higher-risk interactions (e.g., articulating an assigned “position” or expressing personal thoughts aloud). Break into small groups periodically so everyone can speak and be heard.
  7. Allow for moments of silence and different styles of engagement. At the same time, ensure the “burden” of the discussion is racially balanced. Watch for domination by individuals and by demographic groups. Manage rather than avoid disagreements, remembering that conflict can be constructive.
  8. Avoid the “shame and blame” paradigm. Anger, upset, guilt, discomfort, even confusion are normal. Emotions should be acknowledged, but not become the focus of discussion. Watch out for overpersonalization; balance the need to explore feelings with a desire to discuss tangible issues and generate outcomes.
  9. Take advantage of “teachable moments.” Ask someone speaking to say more, go deeper, rephrase, consider an alternative or opposing view. Introduce concepts and outside information as needed to “ground” discussion within a broader context and take it out of the personal realm. Ask the class to explore an idea together rather than evaluate positions. Redirect debates and resistance as follows: What would it mean if this were true? What might we do differently?
  10. Encourage personal empowerment for making a difference. Emphasize that any effort at change is meaningful. What may be easy for one participant may be risky for another. This discussion is but one step in a larger process.