• To take notice of the diversity in the room, or of the diversity not in the room • To find that they have connections with everyone in the room, no matter how similar or how different they may have thought they were.
Room large enough for all participants to be in a circle
Inform that this is a silent exercise, no talking what-so-ever, even if you do not understand the question. The leader has a list of statements, such as:
1. I play a musical instrument 2. I’m the oldest in the family 3. I have traveled to another country 4. I am artistic 5. I am the only child 6. I am of Latino decent 7. I’m the youngest in the family 8. I come from a blended family 9. I am of European decent 10. I am an activist 11. I am of Native American decent 12. I am or want to be famous 13. My family is multi-racial 14. I am an immigrant 15. I am of Asian decent 16. I identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender or have a close family member who does. 17. I am of African or African American decent 18. I have been discriminated against because of my physical or mental challenges 19. I have had people other than family members live with my family 20. I consider one of my siblings or a parent a good friend 21. I am the peacekeeper in my family 22. My family is dysfunctional 23. I am a student 24. I am spiritual 25. I plan to go to college 26. I have a family member who is an alcoholic or drug addict 27. I am religious 28. My first language is something other than English 29. I have been discriminated against because of my weight 30. I am the product of a divorced family. 31. I have recently been in a fight or argument with my parent(s). 32. I am vegetarian 33. I have had bad service at a restaurant because of the color of my skin 34. I have broken the law 35. I have been discriminated against because of my gender 36. I have been discriminated against because I was poor 37. I am independent 38. I put others before myself 39. I am a middle child. 40. I usually get my way 41. I or someone I know has been sexually molested 42. I tend to get angry easily 43. I am a picky eater
44. My parents were never married 45. I like drama 46. I avoid conflict 47. I am or have lived in foster care or have had a foster child live with me 48. I have, or someone close to me has suffered from a mental health issue 49. I am a survivor of a violent crime 50. I have been in a fight 51. I have been embarrassed of my house or family car at one point in my life 52. I have gone to summer camp 53. I have, or someone close to me has had a family member in jail 54. I commonly see people of my race or ethnicity portrayed in a negative way in the media or on TV 55. I or someone I know has skipped a meal because there wasn’t enough money to buy food in the family 56. I learned about the history and culture of people of my race in history class
• The leader reads some of the statements, one at a time. • At the end of each statement pause. Instruct that if the statement is true for an individual, they should step forward into the circle. • Take a moment to have each participant look around who is in the circle with them and who is not. • Then step back into the circle to listen for the next statement. • When all of the questions have been read, invite the participants to add, one at a time, a statement that is true for you that hasn’t been mentioned already.
This is a well known and powerful exercise. One potential downside to it is that may "out" someone who later regrets stepping into the circle, get teased for doing so, etc. An alternative way, created by Dawn Menken of Portland OR, is having large colorful and positive posters that each represent a kind of diversity. Then, when that kind of diversity is named, the participants each put a small postit on the large poster that indicates, anonymously, whether the person identifies or not with the category. Then when the exercise is debriefed, the facilitator can say, under the category of X, there are 4 people who identify with this, 6 who do not and 3 who aren't sure.
I hope this helps improve this great but sometimes problematic exercise
Questions • What was this exercise like for you? • What did you like about it? • What didn’t you like about it? • Was there anything that surprised you? • What was it like to be the only one in the middle? • What was it like to not have anyone go in the middle. Who are those people? Why aren’t they here? • What is the value in knowing the ways people identify themselves? • What opportunities do you have to understand the people in your school/work? • How are people classified? What did folks notice about how people are classified just in the categorization of questions asked (race, gender, social grouping, etc.).
Discussion: • We have connections with everyone in the room, no matter how similar or how different they may have thought they were. • It is both scary and empowering to be the only one who is different. • Sometimes we don’t understand the ways in which people identify themselves. • Our diversity is our richness. We can learn from each other in our differences. We shouldn’t be scared of differences, although sometimes it is unsettling to think we don’t have anything in common with a person, because inevitably, we do have something in common. • We are all more similar than we think. • When we classify people, we often put them in a “box” (they hang with stoners, they must do drugs and be a bad person). (Process note: you might have to clarify what you mean by “box”. A box is referring to a place where we might put someone that does not leave space for anything but our classification or interpretation of who they are.)