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Race Card Project gathers student opinions on race in six words

Photo courtesy Alden Hartopo.
Photo courtesy Alden Hartopo.

How would you sum up your thoughts about race in six words?

The Office of Multicultural Affairs is currently sponsoring The Race Card Project, an event which allows Calvin’s community to express their thoughts on race in six words or fewer.

Michelle Loyd-Paige, dean of multicultural affairs, said the idea was inspired by a radio segment she heard on NPR.

“I thought it would be a cool idea to bring it back to Calvin,” said Loyd-Paige. “I wanted us at Calvin to have a conversation about race that is less threatening.”

Loyd-Paige hopes the short and simple instructions will attract the Calvin community.

“By keeping [the comments] under six words, we can help keep things simple yet still hear what their opinion on race is,” she said.

Students have responded positively to The Race Card Project.

“I think it is pretty cool. The fact that it is only six words makes it less time consuming to participate in,” said sophomore Sharon Dhavale.

The Race Card Project originally was started by Michele Norris, an Emmy Award winning journalist. In 2009, Norris was named “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists.

Norris currently hosts NPR’s afternoon broadcast All Things Considered in which she has interviewed world leaders, American presidents and influential newsmakers.

Norris started the project in the hopes of using simple postcards to spark conversation about race in America. The project has now gone global.

This is Calvin’s first year of participating in this project.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs hopes that this project will be another opportunity for the Calvin community to talk about race.

“Everyone on campus lives in a racialized world,” Loyd-Paige said. “We are surrounded by diversity in all that we do. Our differences in background and experiences shape how we form different views, so why not let the campus be the teacher?”

The project, which started on Oct. 7 and ends on Nov. 11, is now three and a half weeks in. Loyd-Paige said the goals set for the project have already been achieved; however, she would love to see more entries by Calvin’s community.

Following the end of the project, there will be two campus-wide discussions in which faculty, staff and students can discuss entries submitted.

Loyd-Paige hopes the entries and discussions will help the community understand the essence of our views on race.

“I want to encourage people to think about what they think about race,” she said. “Where does your information come from? How did you learn about ‘those’ people and what they are like? Did you learn from your family, friends, church, media or school? What do you believe is true? I hope the discussions will be a time of low risk, high impact conversation about race. I want Calvin to reflect on what all the entries say about Calvin as a community.”

Loyd-Paige, a 1981 Calvin alumna, said she is encouraged by what she sees on campus. When she first started here in 1977, there were only a handful of African-American students. There is now a significant growth in diverse students, she added.

She hopes that Calvin will embrace and nurture the diversity.

“I would like to see more of Calvin not taking the diversity in student body for granted,” Loyd-Paige said. “It takes a lot of sacrifice for students to be here, so we have to make sure that diversity is part of our language. We also need to invite everyone to be part of this engagement.”

Loyd-Paige believes it is time for Calvin to move forward by continuing its growth in diversity.

“We at Calvin need to think about what it means to bring in the Kingdom of God through diversity and to live as part of it,” she said. “We need to think about how we can embrace not just the demographic change in the U.S. but all over the world. It is important for us to realize that this change is no longer strange.”

The Race Card Project will be open for submissions until Nov. 11. Entries can be submitted here.

The facilitated discussions will take place on Nov. 14 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Spoelhof Center 382 and Nov. 14 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Spoelhof Center 322.

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