Our Hidden Conversations
What Americans Really Think About Race and Identity
by Michele Norris
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Pub Date 16 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 16 Jan 2024
The prompt seemed simple: Race. Your Thoughts. Six Words. Please Send.
The answers, though, have been challenging and complicated. In the twelve years since award-winning journalist Michele Norris first posed that question, over half a million people have submitted their stories to The Race Card Project inbox. The stories are shocking in their depth and candor, spanning the full spectrum of race, ethnicity, identity, and class. Even at just six words, the micro-essays can pack quite a punch, revealing, fear, pain, triumph, and sometimes humor. Responses such as: You’re Pretty for a Black girl. White privilege, enjoy it, earned it. Lady, I don’t want your purse. My ancestors massacred Indians near here. Urban living has made me racist. I’m only Asian when it’s convenient.
Many go even further than just six words, submitting backstories, photos, and heirlooms: a collection much like a scrapbook of American candor you rarely get to see. Our Hidden Conversations is a unique compilation of stories, richly reported essays, and photographs providing a window into America during a tumultuous era. This powerful book offers an honest, if sometimes uncomfortable, conversation about race and identity, permitting us to eavesdrop on deep-seated thoughts, private discussions, and long submerged memories.
The breadth of this work came as a surprise to Norris. For most of the twelve years she has collected these stories, many were submitted by white respondents. This unexpected panorama provides a rare 360-degree view of how Americans see themselves and one another.
Our Hidden Conversations reminds us that even during times of great division, honesty, grace, and a willing ear can provide a bridge toward empathy and maybe even understanding.
“A stunning book and a gift to our nation."
— Sherrilyn Ifill, Howard Law School, and former President & Director-Counsel NAACP Legal Defense Fund
“An important, compelling work."
— Eric H. Holder, Jr., 82nd Attorney General of the United States and author of Our Unfinished March
"This book is a safe space where difficult conversations become healing exchanges.”
— Tayari Jones, New York Times bestselling author of An American Marriage
[Our Hidden Conversations] can help us all cultivate communities of bridge builders so that we can talk about race with both candor and love.”
— Walter Isaacson, New York Times bestselling author of The Code Breaker
“Candid, unsettling and brilliant."
— Jelani Cobb, Dean, Columbia Journalism School