Six Words

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Since it was launched four years ago, The Race Card Project has inspired a wide-ranging conversation about race in this country. The project’s creator, Michele Norris, addressed a packed crowd in Georgia Southern’s Performing Arts Center as the featured speaker for the University’s 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Norris is best known as the former co-host of NPR’S flagship news program, “All Things Considered.” She is also the author of her family’s memoir, The Grace of Silence, which explored the family’s complicated racial legacy, and the hidden conversation about race in the wake of the election of this country’s first African-American president. The veteran journalist said during the 2008 presidential campaign she noticed people were engaged in an interesting conversation about race, and she decided to “create this exercise that would invite people to talk about it in a new way and the hook was the six-word sentence.”

“I knew that taking something complex and reducing it to six words would help people put  a fine point on issues of race, and it was kind of  a challenge that I thought people would  accept,” Norris said.

The first submissions were by postcard, but the project really took off when people would post their essays online or via social media. “Suddenly people would slide into the conversation and say that sounds racist, that sounds biased and I realized that people were actually talking to each other,” she said. “It has been interesting to watch people engage, argue, lament, celebrate and tweet those six words representing their point of view.”

The archive now contains tens of thousands of essays with just as many waiting to be archived. Norris is hopeful the archive will serve as a valuable resource for future researchers, including those at Georgia Southern. “They may want to investigate what campus life was like in the 1960s when colleges like this one were beginning to integrate.”

Georgia Southern’s Diversity Peer Educators implemented the project on campus from October until February and they received more than 500 postcards said Dorsey Baldwin, director of the Multicultural Student Center. “We had great feedback from the students with The Race Card Project,” Baldwin noted. “We will be sending the postcards collected from our students to Michele Norris so that she can include them in the project archives that will be stored at the Library of Congress.”

The project has more than fulfilled Norris’ goal of encouraging people to have a conversation about race. In case you were wondering, her six words are: “Still more work to be done.” – Sandra Bennett

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