Suggested timing: 35 minutes

As we move towards modeling scenarios, remember that the purpose of these conversations is to encourage self-reflection, respectful exchanges, and develop communal understanding. It is not about changing people’s minds.

  • Link discussion points to systems of racism & disproportionality
  • Acknowledge your privilege
  • Don’t expect a person of color to be your personal race resource
  • Respect confidentiality
  • Facilitate with another person
  • Own up to mistakes and do not focus on “fixing” everything

10 min: Review the scenarios included below or create your own based on an experience you’ve had.

20 min: Break out into small groups and work through the scenarios in pairs.

5 min: Come back together and review the reminders included above, then read the scenarios and talk through the prompts. Suggested responses are included for the facilitator to help the group navigate each scenario.

Scenario 1: A colleague is making others uncomfortable because they continue to state opinions on “All Lives Matter” not just “Black Lives Matter”. They get upset if anyone doesn’t agree with their perspective.

Prompt: What are some strategies to manage the discussion respectfully?

Suggested response to Scenario 1: Let’s go back to the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was created to put the spotlight on the BIPOC experience in America and shed light on systemic oppression. The intention of this movement is not to diminish the experiences of other people, but rather to focus on the systemic injustices that disproportionately affect Black people in America. Saying “all lives matter” silences the traumatic experiences of oppressed and marginalized groups and is a form of racial gaslighting.

Scenario 2: Your book club is in a heated discussion about immigration in the United States. At first, the conversation is simply a sharing of different opinions, but quickly deteriorates to sarcastic comments and ridiculing.

Prompt: Can you think of ways to bring the group together and move their conversation forward?

Suggested response to Scenario 2: As a facilitator, the first step to addressing this situation is to bring the group back to the ground rules. Revisiting the ground rules serves as a reminder to exchange viewpoints respectfully. Then, connect the system of “immigration” to the conversation and stick to facts. Discuss the many reasons people immigrate to the US, discuss the difference between refugee, asylum seeker, immigrants, and citizens; share the tricky process immigrants go through coming to the United States; remind attendees securing a legal immigration visa is not as simple as standing in a line; share data to show immigrants strengthen our community; explore whether the process of immigration reflects compassion and humanity.

Scenario 3: “I’m color blind, when I look at you I don’t see color.”

Prompt: How do you respond?

Suggested responses: We need to approach race with intention. Saying we are color blind does not acknowledge centuries of bias and systemic laws/policies that makes life harder for the BIPOC community.

Scenario 4: You go for a walk with a friend who decides to cross the street when they see a Black man walking towards them.

Prompt: What can you do or say to your friend?

Suggested response to Scenario 4: Can you explain why you felt that person was a threat to you? Asking this question can help your friend identify their bias and begin the hard work of exploring their biases and how they interact with the world around them. Other leading questions to ask: Did you know the news we consume can influence our attitudes about race?

Scenario 5: While visiting the grocery store you overhear a customer berating another customer and the argument becomes heated. All of a sudden, one customer exclaims: “Go back to where you came from!”

Prompt: What could you say in this situation?

Suggested response to Scenario 5: It is easier said than done, but consider becoming an “active bystander”. Depending on the situation and how it unfolds, consider standing by as a witness and be supportive of the individual who is being mistreated. If you notice the situation is escalating and there is a possibility of harm, get help (store management, security, or police), or create a diversion. Your goal is not to speak for anyone or change anyone’s mind, it is simply to be an ally and active bystander.

Action Items

What are some things you can do to fight racial oppression? Ijeoma Oluo shares small steps you can take to create real change in her book So You Want to Talk About Race. A few of her suggestions include:

  • Vote local. Local elections have real consequences – vote local and demand that your representatives make racial justice a priority. Support candidates of color and support political platforms that make racial justice and inclusion a priority.
  • Get in schools. What is the racial achievement gap in your school district? Are your children only learning about people of color in February? An inclusive education meets the needs of all students.
  • Support POC-owned businesses. Spend your money supporting small, local businesses owned by people of color and give your money back to people living in the community. Your city or county may already have a directory of local, minority-owned businesses in your community.
  • Support increases in the minimum wage. We must acknowledge that a larger proportion of people of color work in lower-wage jobs. If we raise wages we can work to reduce the racial wealth gap.
  • Boycott banks and businesses that prey on people of color. Do your research on financial institutions and the rampant discrimination of POC in the banking industry. Do not give your business to banks that treat POC unfairly.
  • Support organizations working to fight racial oppression and support communities of color. Reach out to people in your local community to see what local organizations could use your financial support if you are able to contribute. You can also spend time learning what these organizations do and get involved by volunteering.

As Ms. Oluo states, “The truth is, we all pull levers of this white supremacist system, every day. The way we vote, where we spend our money, what we do and do not call out – these are all pieces of the system. We cannot talk our way out of a racially oppressive system. We can talk our way into understanding, and we can then use that understanding to act.”

Previous submodule:
Next submodule: