'These Talks Need to Happen'

The Race Card Project asked students their thoughts on campus diversity and inclusivity issues

Elizabeth Lucas '16

"Embrace diversity with humility and understanding."

That’s what Card #70 said when the Race Card Project got underway in January as part of St. Lawrence’s annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The project, started in 2010 by former National Public Radio Host Michele Norris, “encourages people to condense their observations and experiences about race into one sentence with just six words,” according to its website.

As the conversation surrounding race and diversity becomes increasingly more critical on college campuses, St. Lawrence’s participation in the Race Card Project is just one way the University is becoming actively engaged.

Volunteer Services Coordinator Ashlee Downing, who helped bring the project (with its often stunningly honest submissions) to campus, said the inspiration came from the “desire to engage students in a conversation around diversity and privilege.”

“The hope was for students to define themselves,” Downing says, “and with that allow them the opportunity to feel what it means to be a member of the SLU community.”

Maxime Bost-Brown ’17, a member of the Black Student Union (BSU), said that the Race Card Project was “a really great idea to try and get students thinking about race in a simple way.” As part of the BSU’s inaugural “Black Week,” Maddi Coyne ’16 said the cards were used in an open discussion about diversity and inclusivity.

Cards were distributed in a variety of classes and in the Sullivan Student Center. Nearly 200 submissions were received. “They have led to some great conversations about race that have continued since,” Downing said.

While many student organizations such as SLU Men in Color and Guyanese Sisters are becoming increasingly vocal in campaigning for greater understanding of cultural difference, Card #32 may have said it best: “There’s a long way to go.”

Maxime agreed: “It is clear that these talks need to happen within this St. Lawrence community, and this was one step in the right direction.”