The U.S.—like Brazil or England—likes to think it has moved beyond race. After all, we elected a black President, twice. But in reality, the terrain of race-baiting has simply shifted. The condescension once aimed squarely at African Americans now also claims as its targets Latinos, Muslims and—in a novel twist—large swaths of whites. And the people doing the condescending might be black or brown themselves.
—Suketu Mehta, The ‘Tiger Mom’ Superiority Complex
…we have profound stereotypes about how groups of people are supposed to behave. And those stereotypes drive our perceptions of who people are, not just how they behave.
Talking to Beth and Steve has helped me think of other possible methods in bringing up race into conversations. I’ve been rethinking my design criteria and I think the most important thing for my users is finding a commonality with others. It can be direct but not direct to the point where they feel guilty or defensive. I think talking about race from a cultural standpoint might be easier because it resonates with more people. Possible entry points might be food, music (pop music), language (profanity). These topics are less emotionally charged which could turn into more constructive conversations.
This week I made a new prototype that centered around the issue of racial stereotypes in America’s media. Prior to this, my ideas focused mainly around the individual’s story. As an experiment, I wanted to step back and look at it from a systemic point of view and see if that could be a potential entry point in conversation.
I realize I’m not going to eradicate racism with my thesis but what I’m interested in is how to start that dialogue about race. Humor is a great entry point to bring up uncomfortable topics such as race so I designed a card game based on Cards Against Humanity but with an emphasis on race. Each blue card has a question and each white card displays a topic and an explanation of the topic at the bottom. The white cards are a mix of neutral and race conscious topics in our pop culture. The same rules apply. One person is the judge who puts down a blue card. The other participants put down a white card in response to the blue card. The judge then picks which white card they like and the person who put down that card wins that round.
Three of my classmates were brave enough to test it out
Insights I gathered from class:
- Feels too direct
- Doesn’t facilitate people to engage
- When a neutral card comes up, people might think there are racial implications
- Kept coming back to the individual because the player was being judged in which card they played
Things to think about:
- How can you get past the racist humor to a conversation
- How were the dynamics change if the group is homogenous vs. heterogenous?
- What happens when all of your cards are all racist?
- How can you explain why some of those cards are offensive?
This prototype was a start in getting people to think about race but I think the next steps for me is to try for a more subtle approach. I want to test this with high school students to see how they engage with it.
It’s becoming more clear to me that many issues of race and racism stem from the lack of constructive conversations we have. So can we do to make it more constructive? I’m starting to explore this but there are many factors that prevent us from understanding it. I was reading this paper Moving the Race Conversation Forward (I highly recommend reading this) and came across some interesting insights:
- Most of mainstream media’s racism content is not systemically aware
- Amount of systemically aware content varies by topic
- Mainstream media rarely cover racial justice advocacy or solutions
Racism defined into 4 pillars
When talking about racism, many stories focus on the individual level and omit the context and perspectives in policies, rules or practices in industries and institutions. Cultural and institutional settings enforce our biases and dictate the conversations we have today. This leads to either people feeling frustrated about the current state of race discourse or they prefer to turn away and not talk about it which promotes the idea we are all colorblind. Yes talking about race can be uncomfortable but I think we need to get over that.
When there is a lack of knowledge of the effects of systemic racism, it is very difficult to have that conversation of race. The conversation leads back to the individual’s story which inevitably leads to feelings of anger and guilt. It’s hard to change to culture but dissecting it and understanding why issues of race still exist is important in having more constructive conversations and it helps us reflect on our own behaviors we may not be aware of. Being placed in a diverse environment is not enough. We need to have actual conversations to understand the nuances we all experience.
I’ve narrowed it down into a few areas I find interesting:
- The conversation of race is split within different groups. Most race events I attend primarily focus on one race. Often times when it is a non-Asian event, I find myself the only Asian person. I learn a great deal from these events because it gives me more perspectives on the similarities and differences other people of color face. While I think it’s great these events are happening its not enough. When the conversation is separated within each racial population, it starts to marginalize other groups.
- Not knowing your own history. I think this is a key part in feeling part of the race conversation. Knowing your story and your family’s story will allow you to see how you fit into the bigger narrative.
- Lack of vocabulary. Identity is super confusing. Distilling it down to race is still confusing. Many of us have unanswered questions but unsure if we can ask those questions. We all have different experiences and perspectives which makes it difficult to relate to one another. We learn from what is portrayed in our media which often times is inaccurate. So how can we better communicate?