The Bridge FAQs
Q: What is the Bridge?
A: The Bridge is the Aspen Institute’s new program on race, cultural identity and inclusion. It is powered by the Peabody Award-winning Race Card Project™ founded by former NPR Journalist Michele Norris.
Q: What is the Race Card Project™?
A: In 2010, Michele Norris began inviting people to distill their thoughts on the word race to six words. She and her team printed 200 postcards and issued a call to action. Today, we’ve archived more than 50,000 submissions from all 50 states and 62 countries. It starts with just six words, but most “authors” trust the project enough to sign their names, provide back-stories explaining their words and even send photos and artifacts. Visit theracecardproject.com to read more and see some of the cards for yourself.
Q: So what’s the purpose of the Bridge?
A: The goal is to engage Americans to explore other perceptions and talk across difference by tapping into the issues, threads and colliding perspectives that surface in the real-life stories captured by the Race Card Project submissions. We want to inspire curiosity, encourage understanding and activate listening — fully knowing that people might never land on the same page.
Q: Is this just the Race Card Project rebranded?
A: No. The Bridge is a new program that seeks to go deeper. It’s intended to help break down barriers to explore the entrenched narratives that define or confine our communities. We want to create a more open and understanding society; and, to explore how race and cultural identity can influence individuals and institutions. But it does rely on the earned trust, hard truths, existing networks and immense story archive of the Race Card Project.
Q: What does the “race card” mean?
A: Great question. The program name undercuts the political and derogatory meaning of the term “race card” – which is usually used to stop a conversation. Michele Norris intentionally chose this term to flip that meaning on its head. We want to redefine the way people talk about race, not just as a social science construct, but something that encompasses the real feelings, thoughts and lived experiences of people.
Q: What do you do with the submissions?
A: Over the years we’ve received cards in various forms, from postcards to electronic submissions. We keep these in an archive, many of which are shared via theracecardproject.com. A number of submissions spark further interest and we work to bring those stories to life through other media, including blogs, radio, print, television, podcasts and publications.
Q: This seems like a sensitive topic, I’m not sure we’re ready to engage on this…
A: It can be. One of the most important aspects of the Race Card Project is that it’s truly unique. These stories can’t be found anywhere else because many are giving voice to sentiments for the first time at the Race Card Project. Thousands have demonstrated they are ready to engage, and their willingness serves as an invitation to others.
Q: So how could I use the Bridge?
A: Among other things, the Bridge programs and offerings can help create a safe, common space where staff and community members can connect and engage in productive conversations. These unique connections help spark conversations that allow participants to understand other people’s lived experiences. It can also help leaders make important decisions about workplace environment, inclusion and hiring practices. The Bridge tools can also help show how race, culture and identity impact a community in ways that aren’t always easy to see.
Q: What tools do you offer?
A: We offer two primary tools. BRIDGEBOX is a customized card deck of narratives pulled directly from the vast archive of voices at the Race Card Project. Each deck of cards contains 25 carefully selected 6-word narratives with a picture and a personal story. These personal narratives on race, identity, culture and relationships reveal snapshots of what life is like for all Americans.
We can also create a custom user-friendly portal that allows you to showcase the tapestry of stories and narratives. This enables your organization to capture and reflect on views and perspectives. This often works best when done after your BRIDGEBOX experience.
Q: Are there any programs for students?
A: Yes! We are currently working with classroom teachers and experts in race and cultural studies to develop best practices and formalize the process of using the Race Card Project with K-12 and college students.
Our objective is to develop a multi-faceted toolkit with a cross-curricula lens for teaching empathy, perspective, tolerance, cyber bullying awareness, digital readiness, media literacy, statistics, science, economics, citizenship and most importantly the power of our words. A pilot concept classroom in San Diego has enabled our team at the Aspen Institute to engage with teachers and students in real-time as they use the Race Card Project model and archive to enrich their curriculum. Teachers have been able to draw upon the narratives from the Race Card project to enhance the study of WWII, slavery, immigration patterns, statistical probability and American art forms.
The Race Card Project also currently has more than twenty 20 partners in higher education. The University of Michigan, University of Oregon and Syracuse University have systematically used the project since 2013 with student groups and in specialized study and outreach with surrounding campus communities. The Race Card Project has also been used by dozens of colleges and universities around the country informally as a tool for dialogue, and it is now frequently part of the curriculum in classes ranging from anthropology and ethnic studies to American history and creative expression.
Q: Can my school become a partner?
A: We’d like nothing better! To find out more about our educational programs, please contact Melissa Bear.
Q: Who else have you partnered with?
A: The Race Card project has received submissions from around the world, and every corner of America. We’ve also been lucky enough to present and engage live on campuses, in communities and with companies. From Harvard University and Sacramento State to Time and National Geographic magazines to AARP and Target, the list is diverse and vast. Take a look for yourself at where we’ve been.
Q: Are there any publications about your work where I can hear more?
A: You bet! The Race Card Project has been featured in a variety of media. Our founder Michele Norris also featured many of the stories on air while at NPR. Here are a few clips you might find interesting:
Q: Is it possible to have Michele Norris speak at an upcoming event?
A: As someone who has spent her career listening and sharing, Michele is always honored to field invitations to engage with a live audience. Please complete the following form and we’ll get back to you ASAP.
Q: How do I host a Race Card Project?
A: We’re glad you asked! For more information on the Race Card Project tools, or to host an event, please contact Melissa Bear.
Q: Can I get involved or find out more in general?
A: Absolutely, we’d love to hear from you! For more information on the Bridge, please contact Amrit Dhillon