Michele Norris Brings Discussions of Race to Elizabethtown College
March 5, 2017   //   By:   //   Arts & Culture, Arts and Culture

In her childhood, Michele Norris experienced a rude awakening to the issues of race in America. She learned that her father, a black man, had been shot by white police officers shortly after returning from his military service. Having been sheltered from such issues by her parents, she now speaks out about the importance of having conversations about race in America.

Norris, former host of National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” was Elizabethtown College’s 2017 Leffler Lecturer. She spoke Feb. 28 in Leffler Chapel and Performance Center on “Eavesdropping on America’s Conversation on Race.” The journalist has 10 years’ experience as a reporter for ABC News. She also was a writer for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.

Norris’ talk was mainly concerned with issues and problems concerning race in American society. In her presentation, she discussed key points of her book, “The Grace of Silence,” which details the struggles with race experienced by her and her family. Norris also talked about The Race Card Project, the program she created in 2012 , which urges people to compose their thoughts or experiences of race in six words. She illustrated how these simple six-word sentences provide a distinct picture of race in America.

It only takes one person to get it started.”

Norris emphasized the importance of having conversations about race. She explained that people should be open-minded when having such discussions.

Talking about the lecture with friends the next day, Emily West, a senior political science major at Elizabethtown College near Hershey, Pennsylvania, said she agreed with what Norris had to say. She said that in today’s society, issues of race often are overlooked because people do not think it affects them. West said she is eager to see more people having conversations about race. “It only takes one person to get it started,” West said. “That’s where the change begins.”

Norris’s talk resonated with people of various backgrounds. Dr. Peter Licona, assistant professor education at Elizabethtown College, considered this lecture to be important for all communities in America. He believes that by having more conversations about race that are honest and meaningful, the future of America will be “more accepting, more inclusive and more socially just.”

Norris kept the tone of her talk humorous and light even though dealing with serious subject matter. No matter what the atmosphere, she said she firmly believes discussions of race are important to have.

Licona said he concurs with Norris’s belief, emphasizing that conversations about race and other social issues are always appropriate. “In times of accord, they are necessary to remind us of how far we have come; in times of discord, they remind us of how far we need to go.”

Elizabethtown College prepared a reading list to complement the lecture in case audience members wanted to learn more about what Norris discussed. These readings include topics such as implicit bias, the Black Lives Matter movement and slave narratives.

Norris’s lecture, part of the Carlos R. and Georgiana E. Leffler Memorial Lecture series, was well-attended by students, faculty and staff members and those from the community.

The lecture series seeks to present speakers who will have a positive impact on the experiences of Elizabethtown students as well as creating meaningful conversations.


~ E-town NOW guest writer is Emily Soltys — Soltys is a senior sociology/anthropology major and an English minor.

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