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Book Review and Prompts : Our Hidden Conversations: What Americans Really Think About Race and Identity

By Judey Kalchik Published 5 months ago Updated 5 months ago 3 min read
https://pixabay.com/users/marcel_elia-1451138/

This week I was blessed to attend one of the biggest meetings of booksellers in the United States, and to hear the keynote address of author/journalist/storyteller Michele Norris.

It was a transformative experience. So much so that I simply have to share and invite you to participate, too.

Norris' new book is Our Hidden Conversations: What Americans Really Think About Race and Identity, released in January 2024. (You can find it at your local bookstore, library, or purchase it from the Internet's local bookstore by clicking the title link and ordering it from @Bookshop.org.)

The book grew from the Race Card Project, started around 2010, when she observed Americans greeting the election of Barrack Obama as the beginning of the 'post-racial' age in the States. Believing that this was worthy of more conversation, she facilitated a way to do just that.

That way was using the prompt "Race. 'Your Story. Six Words. Please Send.'" And she has been flooded with responses since, over 500,000 already archived and some (with permission and input from the senders) incorporated into the new book.

You can create your own card digitally using this link:

As I listened to Norris speak, immersing myself into her presentation, reading aloud the entries sent by people from all over the United States over our very turbulent (and IMO most certainly NOT a post-racial) era, I remembered a defining moment in my life that became my own 6 word story.

My Memory

I grew up watching history unfold in black and white images on a small tabletop TV. I saw footage of the Vietnam War, saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, saw man take 'one small step' on the moon, and saw images of police blasting black people with firehoses as they peacefully protested. And I did what kids do; I asked my father why the police (the 'good guys I was to find if I needed help'), why were they doing that, and would they do it to me? I was 3 years old.

His response made no sense to me, and I remembered it- bringing it up often when I was in elementary school- his response was "No matter what happens in your life, be thankful you aren't black." He never remembered it when I asked him what he meant by it, and I never forgot it.

This would have been 13 years before the United States decided February would be Black History Month. This was when I had less than 5 Black classmates in my elementary school, as verified by my old school photos.

I don't know what he meant then, as I actually understood very little of what my father said during my life. Did he mean that I was lucky not to have dogs sicced on my by the people meant to protect the community? Did he mean I was safe from firehoses?

Did he try to tell me that things weren't fair in the world, in the States, in our community, in our lifetime? Was he expressing both relief and shame that his White daughter was safer than those Black daughters and sons?

Was he expressing the same hatred, fear, anger, and evil as those policemen?

Was my father expressing and acknowledging Privilege even before it was widely used and written in books and newspapers? I don't know. But I have remembered. It is my earliest memory of 'Other', but certainly not my last.

My six-word story, which I added to those displayed by many that attended her keynote, was "My father spoke 'Privilege'. I'm sorry."

My Prompts for You

  1. Consider your 6-word story on Race and Identity, and submit it digitally to the Race Card Project here.
  2. Share your 6-word story on this piece as a comment. You can leave it there as is, or add an explanation.
  3. If you are a Vocal creator writer, use those 6 words for a longer piece, and provide the backstory about why you chose them. Then link your piece to this one as a comment.

Norris described her book as "the most important book I've ever done- because it gives me the opportunity to listen."

I'd love to read your six words; I'd love to read your story; I want to listen more.

~~~

About Bookshop.org: I am not an affiliate and earn no commission from your purchase using the link above. However: I encourage you to use Bookshop.org instead of the online store named after the big river. Bookshop.org donates a portion of every sale, totally over $30 million to date, to independent bookstores, keeping them open and your neighbors employed.

To give more context on what I saw, here is a local newspaper reporting on what happened. I am sickened by the tone, and also afraid there are those who have never read it.

Your comments are eagerly welcomed.

PerspectivesNarrativesEvents

About the Creator

Judey Kalchik

It's my time to find and use my voice.

Poetry, short stories, memories, and a lot of things I think and wish I'd known a long time ago.

You can also find me on Medium

And please follow me on Threads, too!

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Comments (8)

  • Phil Flannery4 months ago

    It's a thing on the television. This sounds dismissive, I know, and I know it's as prevalent here in Aus as anywhere in the world, but I limit my interactions with the world.

  • Lamar Wiggins5 months ago

    Awesome! Thank you for sharing Michele's work. And thank you for taking the time to share your views and experiences. I submitted a story to the site. "Faith comes natural. Hate is learned." It's sad that the cycle of hate starts with parenting. If these same parents could instill more inclusive values in their child's impressionable years, it can take a HUGE chunk out of hate, but they too learned the gist of it from their parents. 😔

  • Kenny Penn5 months ago

    This is a wonderful idea Judey. The card I made says, “I’m still learning about systemic effects”. I’ll make a story that goes with it and post it under this comment. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • I love this, Judey! "College interracial couple, I'm stunned. Why?"

  • Mackenzie Davis5 months ago

    Ooh interesting. Might have to do this.

  • Jay Kantor5 months ago

    'j' ~ As a Viet-Vet my Berkeley Professor Sis was marching against the so-called 'Conflict' to get us out of there. I'm so proud of you to bring these 'Agendas' to the Youngins. 'j'

  • Thank you Judey!!! I made a card. I am you / You are me We are all in this together no matter the color of our skin.

Judey Kalchik Written by Judey Kalchik

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