This past Thursday journalist Michele Norris discussed her recently released book “Our Hidden Conversations; What Americans Really Think About Race and Identity” at the Westminster Town Hall Forum in Minneapolis.
The book is inspired by The Race Card Project, is a Peabody Award–winning narrative archive in which people around the world share their reflections on identity in just six words. Norris, a Minnesota native, is the founding director of the project. She says over the last 14 years more than half a million entries were submitted. She says the experience reminds her of biking through South Minneapolis as a child in the summer.
“That’s what this project is like to me - roaming through America’s neighborhoods when the windows are open, and you can hear what people really think, because they’re inviting us into their lives, telling us how they really feel" she said. "We talk about assumptions made about people—stereotypes. We assume that we are talking about stereotypes laid on people of color. The majority of the stories we’ve archived in 14 years of doing this have come from white Americans. That stunned me.”
The book was released last month and incorporates raw perspectives regarding race from Americans across the country; views that Norris says people are often reluctant to voice publicly.
“After archiving all these cards I’ve learned a lot of lessons, but one of the big lessons that I’ve learned as a communicator is that the conversations that we have about race that are held in the public square, that are led by members of the press core and media, are very different than the conversation that is happening closer to the ground,” said Norris.
Norris says she hopes this book can inspire a more expansive conversation about race across the nation. She says this project has challenged the narrative that Americans do not want to talk about race.
“I’m a storyteller, but in the last chapter of my career I have become a story collector, also. And now in some ways, a story defender. Because there are a lot of people who are trying to shut down conversation. There are a lot of people who are trying to take our stories from us. And in some cases, our histories,” said Norris.
In her career, Norris has been acknowledged with various honors, including the Peabody, Emmy, Dupont, and Goldsmith awards. Currently Norris is a columnist for The Washington Post Opinion Section, the host of the Audible Original podcast “Your Mama’s Kitchen.” From 2002 to 2012 she was a co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered.