Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, March 11, 2013

Coleman, journalist Michele Norris launch Race Card Project at U-M

President Mary Sue Coleman will formally launch the Race Card Project at U-M on Tuesday. Working with project creator, author and award-winning journalist Michele Norris, Coleman and her executive officers will submit their own six-word descriptions on race.


Michele Norris

Learn more about the Race Card Project.

In just three years, thousands of people across the United States and around the world have participated in the Race Card Project, an innovative undertaking that invites participants to share a six-word description of their view of race, ethnicity and cultural identity written on index cards or online forms. Based on the range, quality and number of collected responses, the Twitter-like approach to such a weighty topic is inspiring a deeper and revealing conversation.

Norris, perhaps best known as a National Public Radio guest host and special correspondent, also will meet with students, faculty, and staff for the U-M kickoff, the project's first partnership with an American university.

Cards will be distributed to students at U-M's Michigan Union, Diag, and Hutchins Hall at the Law School on Central Campus, and Pierpont Commons on North Campus. They also can be submitted online.

"Despite all the talk about America's consternation or cowardice when it comes to talking about race, I seemed to have found auditorium after auditorium full of people who were more than willing to unburden themselves on this prickly topic," said Norris, who will return to campus April 18 when thousands of completed race cards will be displayed on the Diag. On that day, she also will conduct a town-hall forum on race at Rackham Auditorium.

U-M's participation in the Race Card Project comes amid a semesterlong exploration of race coordinated by LSA. The theme semester, "Understanding Race Project," examines the many notions of race through an extensive range of public exhibits, performances, lectures, symposia and more than 130 courses in several disciplines designed to explore the concept and implications of race. 

"The Race Card Project is a compelling and novel approach to gather people's immediate reactions and attitudes about race," said Martha Jones, co-chair of U-M's Understanding Race Project theme semester and associate professor of Afroamerican and African studies and history.

"Bringing Michele Norris to campus connects U-M and our work educating students about race into the nonacademic, social world where discourse about race might be less formal, but profoundly revealing," said Jones, who also is co-chair of the Program on Race, Law and History at the Law School.

Norris is a former news correspondent for ABC News, and a frequent guest on "Meet the Press" and "The Chris Matthews Show."

In 2009, the National Association of Black Journalists named Norris Journalist of the Year. During her career, she co-hosted NPR's Democratic presidential candidate debates, covered Republican and Democratic conventions, and moderated a series of conversations with voters on the intersection of race and politics.

Race and identity are the focus of Norris' personal account, "The Grace of Silence: A Memoir," published in 2010. In the book, she delves into family secrets that raise questions about her racial legacy.