By Cynthia Scott
Journalist Michele Norris (B.A. ’05) has left NPR after 13 years to devote more time to The Race Card Project (TRCP), which she founded in 2010 to foster candid conversations about race and identity. It rests on a simple idea: Ask people to think about the word “race” and write a six-word essay about it.
The idea for TRCP began to percolate while Norris, a Minneapolis native, was on a nationwide tour for her book The Grace of Silence, a memoir that digs into her family’s history and raises questions about its racial legacy. [See the Winter 2011 issue of Minnesota]. During the tour she assumed she would need to help audience members overcome their reluctance to talk about race, so she came up with the idea of giving out postcards on which people could distill their thoughts into six words. To her surprise, dozens of postcards started arriving in her mailbox week after week. She also discovered that many people, after hearing her story, wanted to tell their own.
“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,” Norris says. To date the project has received tens of thousands of six-word stories from all over the world, many of which are posted on the Race Card Wall at the TRCP website. To read them and to add your own, visit theracecardproject.com.