Atm 101 Classroom

How to Talk About Race Talking About Race, Identity & Education

Reflecting on Langston Hughes’s prophetic poem, “Let America Be America Again,” America to Me looks at the complexities of race, identity, privilege, and education through the eyes of a diverse group of young people.

This guide is designed to help you use America to Me as a catalyst for group discussions about race, racism, and racial equity in America today.

If you’re here, it means you believe in the promise of America and know we can do better. Thank you for playing a role in expanding and deepening this crucial dialogue. We welcome you.


Organizing a Group Discussion

  • Start with either a trained facilitator or a group organizer (e.g. teacher, administrator, family member, student) who can moderate the discussion using this guide.

  • Schedule at least one hour for a group discussion, two hours if you're watching the episode as a group.

  • Look for a safe, inclusive space that’s wheelchair accessible, near public transportation, and that has media capabilities if you want to watch the episode as a group.

  • Participants should watch at least one episode of America to Me before the discussion and be willing to follow the discussion guidelines.

  • Ideal group size: 10 people or fewer. If your class or group is larger, break into smaller groups for discussion.

  • Helpful handouts: Print-outs of the Langston Hughes poem "Let America Be America Again" and the discussion guidelines, paper and pens for the exercises.

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Preparing For Discussion

To keep your discussion respectful and productive, here is a suggested set of guidelines that all participants should follow:

Organizer Guidelines

Your role is to organize the gathering, read through all of the materials, kick off the conversation with the guidelines, and ensure that everyone follows them.

You have the same voice and authority as everyone else in the group. You are the group organizer, not the group leader.

Be prepared. These are sensitive topics, so it’s crucial that you read this entire guide and the entire Episode Guide you’ll be covering, including the resources under EXPAND.

Stay aware of who is speaking and who is not. Ensure that no one dominates the conversation, and welcome (but don’t demand) input from quieter participants.

If someone violates a guideline, respectfully remind them of it.

If your conversation becomes a fight, quiet the group and ask everyone to spend two minutes silently writing down what they’re feeling and thinking. Use your judgment to either move on to a different topic or share what everyone wrote.

Hosting Guide Illustration

Group Guidelines

Appreciate that everyone in the room has good intentions and also biases. Everyone is doing the best they can from their current state of awareness.

Speak for yourself (“I feel…” “I think…”), not on behalf of your identity (“we feel…” “we are…”) or other identities (“they think…” “they act like…”).

Listen to understand and not to respond. Take the time to process what you’ve heard.

Avoid negative judgments, language, and name calling.

Be open to feeling uncomfortable - all growth comes with some discomfort.

Understand that groups of a single race can have multiple perspectives and even the most diverse groups will have missing perspectives.

Stay engaged. Take a moment if you feel frustrated or misunderstood, but don’t drop out.

Don’t dominate the conversation. Everyone gets a chance to speak and be heard.

Don’t expect resolution, complete agreement, or definite answers. This is a discussion, not a debate or a lesson.

Hosting Guide Illustration

Structuring the Discussion

Organizers: Set the stage for a good discussion by welcoming everyone and arranging your group so everyone can see each other, ideally in a circle.

Starting the Discussion

Introduce yourself and your role. Hand out print-outs of the discussion guidelines and (if using) the poem by Langston Hughes.

Read aloud the discussion guidelines and monitor the conversation to ensure everyone follows them.

Have each person introduce themselves by name and self identify their race, ethnicity, and gender pronouns.

Read aloud the definition of “Race” as it pertains to this discussion:

Race is a social construct based on perceptions of a person’s skin color, hair texture and other physical characteristics. In the words of historian Nell Irvin Painter, “race is an idea, not a fact.” Race is different from a person’s nationality (e.g. Irish, Italian) and their ethnicity (e.g. Jewish, Latinx).

Expanding the Discussion

Use the America to Me Episode Guides to frame your discussion. (Organizers - read the entire guide and resource links before you start!)

Episode Guides

Read and familiarize yourself with the Langston Hughes poem, and ask everyone “What is America to you?”

Ask your group some of the Essential Questions About Race.

Pass out paper and pens. Ask everyone to put their anonymous questions about the series or other race-related topics in a box. Read them aloud for the group to discuss.

Introduce the Racial Autobiography (below) and encourage participants to think about their first entry.

Wrapping Up the Discussion

When your time is up or you feel the discussion has reached a natural stopping point, thank everyone for their time and contributions.

Invite everyone to continue watching the series, thinking about what they heard, and engaging in conversations about race and racial equity.

Racial Autobiography Development and Journaling


Race is something that impacts all of our lives, whether we’re conscious of it all of the time or not. Reflecting on your own racial journey is important for understanding your identity, your relationship with others, and your positioning in the world. An understanding of your personal journey with race can also lead to a heightening of your racial consciousness.

As you watch each episode of America to Me and engage with the Episode Guides, you’ll see prompts to add entries into your own racial autobiography.

As you complete your journal, please describe your experiences, thoughts, and feelings, and, be mindful of what comes up for you as you engage.

Remember, race is personal and professional. It includes positive and negative experiences. Race is many things. Do not limit yourself in what you choose to share.

Before you watch the docu-series, start your journal with this entry:

Starting Your Racial Autobiography

What was your earliest experience with race? What was your most recent experience with race? (These are called the “bookends” of your racial autobiography.)