Discussion Questions

Basic - Elementary School

What are the differences between the children in this picture?


  1. How are the children the same?
  2. How are the children different from one another?
  3. What makes a person special?
  4. How do you decide who your friends are?
  5. Is it important to have friends of different backgrounds? Why?
  6. How many people do you know are of different ethnic backgrounds?
  7. Do your parents have friends of different backgrounds?
  8. Have you asked them why they either do or do not have friends of different backgrounds?
  9. When did you first become aware that people have different skin color?
  10. Does it matter that one person has a different skin color than another?

Intermediate - Middle School & High School

  1. Why do you think that people of different ethnic backgrounds misperceive each other?
  2. Can you think of some misperceptions you have had about other people based on their ethnicity or background?
  3. How did you overcome the misperception you held about someone you met?
  4. Where do your beliefs and cultural practices come from?
  5. What biases do you think you have? Where do they come from?
  6. Have you experienced bias or misperceptions by others?
  7. Why do you think it’s important to learn more about the history, culture, religion and ethnic background of different people?
  8. When you visit another country where you are the minority, how does that make you feel?
  9. What is it about yourself and your beliefs that make you unique and different from others, and how might these practices or beliefs be misunderstood or misperceived by another who does not understand your background?
  10. Have you ever seen a person or stranger on the street, and made assumptions about them? Please think of an example. What were the assumptions? Did they turn out to be true or false?

Group Exercises

  1. Interview a person of a background or ethnicity that you are familiar with. Identify at least five things that you believe are different or unique about that person’s culture or background that is related to their ethnicity (i.e. food, religion, language or other beliefs or customs). Next, as the person whether these beliefs are true or untrue, and if not, explain why you have perceived them to be true.
  2. Interview a person of a background or ethnicity that you are not familiar with at all. Ask them to identify at least five things that are unique or different about them that is related to their background or ethnicity. Ask them how they acquired these customs or characteristics, and their significance.

Advanced - High School & College

Are Chinese descendants of Africans?

img_tribeIn 2005, a Chinese DNA specialist, Jin Li, leading a team of Chinese and other scientists from the University of Texas in Houston, proved through DNA tests that the first inhabitants of China were Black Africans. They studied microsatellites, which are short, repeating, DNA segments that yield information about genetic variations among people, and studied 28 population groups in China, concluding that most, if not all, had their genetic origins in Africa. Their findings also added new weight to the theory that all human life began in Africa.

For more information, visit:

What is the significance of these studies?

  1. If Chinese are the descendants of Africans, what significance does this hold for the rest of civilization?
  2. Do you think that environmental conditions would result in a change skin color and appearance? What conditions would account for that?
  3. If it became widely known that Chinese were descendants of Africans, would that tend to bring the people of those ethnicities closer or further apart?

Are babies racist?

A recent study found that by the time they are 9 months old, babies are better to recognize faces and emotional expressions of people who belong to the group they interact with most. This phenomenon, known as cross-racial identification, continues until adulthood. Interestingly, the study found that infants younger than 9 months appear equally able to tell people apart.

  1. Why do you think that is so?
  2. Do you think that a baby’s perception of other people is influenced by genetic or environmental preference?
  3. Do you think that human beings naturally feel more comfortable with people with their own skin color or general appearance?
  4. What other factors influences how a person either relates or connects to another person, other than ethnicity?
  5. Have you ever dated a person of _________ ethnicity?
  6. Why or why not? When you are selecting a mate or a person to date, what role does race play in your decision?
  7. If you have a preference for a particular ethnicity in your choice of partners or friends. what do you think that preference is based on?
  8. If you do not have friends of a particular ethnicity, is that by choice or by happenstance? What would it take for you to strike up a relationship or friendship with a person from an ethnic group or background that you do not currently have?
  9. Do you think it is important to intentionally act to ensure that your group of friends is diverse in ethnicities, backgrounds and culture? Why or why not?
  10. How do you imagine that racism would affect someone?
  11. How do you think that racism might affect the way a person feels about the world and their prospects for the future?

Group Exercises

“Privilege” Exercise: Organize yourself in groups of 6, line up side by side in a large room, with at least 50 feet to walk forward or backwards. Design a list of “privileges” and “set-backs” that a person might experience. Here are some examples of privileges:

  1. One parent or both parents had a college education
  2. Grew up in a high-income household (set specific income figure)
  3. Attended private school
  4. College education funded by parents
  5. Have net worth over $100,000
  6. No fear of police due to race
  7. Positive images of myself and those like me in the media

Examples of “set-backs” or “disabilities” might include:

  1. Attended low performing school
  2. Experienced race or gender discrimination
  3. Had to work to support myself in college or at an early age
  4. Came from poor economic background
  5. Parents do not have a college degree
  6. Experienced fear of police due to race
  7. Negative images of myself and those like me in the media

As each is read, take one step forward if you have experienced a “privilege” and one step backward if you experience a “set back”. This exercise helps illustrates the divide of privilege.

Can bias be measured?


Implicit Association Test: Implicit or unconscious biases are preferences or prejudices we have but may be wholly unaware of. Harvard University’s Project Implicit designed a series of tests that can measure bias in specific areas, including race. Spend an hour with a group of your friends taking the test and compare and discuss your scores. The test can be found at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

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