The Race Card Project Comes to John Jay High School

“Send your six words on race.”  

That was the invitation students at John Jay High School extended to six people they knew, along with a blank index card. It resulted in approximately 6,000 submissions—each a peek into someone's experiences with race or cultural identity.

This is The Race Card Project. The responses, mounted as an exhibit, will be on display in John Jay High School Gallery from October 13 through November 23.

The cards are conversation starters for teachers and students. ‘It allowed me to share my thoughts and ideas around the dinner table, starting a discussion on race at home—which in times like these, is extremely valuable,” said senior Barrett Middleton. “Hearing and really thinking about the views of the six people I contacted made me more conscious about how little race should impact our lives and how much it actually does,” reflects Mark Sfreddo, another senior at John Jay High School.

The Race Card Project is an initiative started by former National Public Radio host Michele Norris designed to foster a candid dialogue about race.  Partnering with The Race Card Project is part of the Katonah-Lewisboro School District’s commitment to helping students grapple with critical contemporary issues in engaging and relevant ways.

“The Race Card Project is a tangible way to see the ways we take our own views on race, gender, and power for granted,” said Candy L. Wilmot, District Wide Staff Developer. “Teachers are using this project to discuss themes in our community read, Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee’s novel set in the early Civil Rights Movement in southern Alabama, and they will build positive takeaways into leadership training for all club presidents.”

“Not all of the cards may offer the same perspectives; some might even be considered intolerant,” said Steven Siciliano, Principal of John Jay High School. “While all submissions have been vetted to assure inappropriate language is not used gratuitously, they help create an awareness of the role of race in American society, how it shapes our thinking, and how it impacts people of color trying to live equally as American citizens.”  

The Race Card Project was created by Norris, former host of National Public Radio’s flagship broadcast, All Things Considered. She unearthed her family’s secrets about their racial legacy while writing the memoir The Grace of Silence. Norris started The Race Card Project in 2010 to help kick start a conversation on this difficult topic. In addition to the continued partnership with National Public Radio, The Race Card Project has been implemented in communities including University of Michigan, The City of Minneapolis, University of Oregon, Seattle Community Colleges, and The Brooklyn Museum of Art. The Race Card Project won the prestigious Peabody Award in 2014.