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About Paul C. Gorski
Circles of My Multicultural Self
activity requires 20-30 minutes.
activity engages participants in a process of identifying what they
consider to be the most important dimensions of their own identities.
Stereotypes are examined as participants share stories about when they
were proud to be part of a particular group and when it was especially
hurtful to be associated with a particular group.
copies of the Circles handout.
to pair up with somebody they do not know very well. Invite them to
introduce themselves to each other, then follow these steps:
is usually some laughter when somebody shares common stereotype
such as "I may be Arab, but I am not a terrorist" or "I may be
a teacher, but I do have a social life.") I heard several moments
of laughter. What was that about?
do stereotypes come from? How are they connected to the kinds of socialiation that make us complicit with oppressive conditions?
participants to write their names in the center circle. They should
then fill in each satellite circle with a dimension of their identity
they consider to be among the most important in defining themselves.
Give them several examples of dimensions that might fit into the satellite
circles: female, athlete, Jewish, brother, educator, Asian American,
middle class, and so on.
- In their
pairs, have participants share two stories with each other. First,
they should share stories about when they felt especially proud to
be associated with one of the identifiers they selected. Next, they
should share a story about a time it was particularly painful to be
associated with one of the identity dimensions they chose.
third step will be for participants to share a stereotype they have
heard about one dimension of their identity that fails to describe
them accurately. Ask them to complete the sentence at the bottom of
the handout by filling in the blanks: "I am (a/an) ____________ but
I am NOT (a/an) _____________." Provide your own example, such as
"I am a Christian, but I am NOT a radical right Republican." Instructions
for steps 1, 2, and 3 should be given at once. Allow 8-10 minutes
for participants to complete all three steps, but remind them with
2 minutes remaining that they must fill in the stereotype sentence.
the group for reactions to each other's stories. Ask whether anyone
heard a story she or he would like to share with the group. (Make
sure the person who originally told the story has granted permission
to share it with the entire group.)
participants that the next step will involve individuals standing
up and reading their stereotype statements. You can simply go
around the room or have people randomly stand up and
read their statements. Make sure that participants are respectful
and listening actively for this step, as individuals are making themselves
vulnerable by participating. Start by reading your own statement.
This part of the activity can be extremely powerful if you introduce
it energetically. It may take a few moments to start the flow of sharing,
so allow for silent moments.
questions can be used to process this activity:
do the dimensions of your identity that you chose as important
differ from the dimensions other people use to make judgments
anybody hear somebody challenge a stereotype that you once bought
into? If so, what?
did it feel to be able to stand up and challenge your stereotype?
key to this activity is the process of examining one's own identity
and the stereotypes associated with that identity, then having one's
own stereotypes challenged through others' stories and stereotype
challenges. Encourage participants to think about the stereotypes
they apply to people and to make a conscious effort to think more
deeply about them, eventually eliminating them.
with most activities, it can be especially effective if you participate
while you facilitate. If you are willing to share your own experiences,
participants are more likely to feel open to share their own.
is crucial, especially for the final part of the activity when participants
are sharing their stereotypes, to allow for silences. People will
be hesitant to share initially, but once the ball starts rolling,
the activity carries a lot of energy. Allow time at the end for
participants to talk more about whatever stereotype they shared.
everyone has shared their stereotype challenge, announce that anyone
who would like to share another one can do so. Model by sharing
another one about yourself.
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