Ethnicity (Race & Ethnicity Conversation Series)

Conversation Guide

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Ethnicity means many things to many people, including (just for a start): your ancestral heritage, one’s cultural background, and things cultures typically include such as cuisine, holidays, ways of doing things, assumptions about “life”, etc. However, in the American context, race and ethnicity are often entangled with one another. This conversation’s primary focus is on ethnicity. For the purposes of deeper exploration, this guide (part 2 of the 3-part Race and Ethnicity Cohort Conversation) makes deliberate distinctions based on some of the common definitions for ethnicity.

For additional training materials, please review our Talking About Race resources here:

Background Information:

(This is the second conversation in our Race & Ethnicity series of three conversations. You can check out the first one here and the third one here.) You can also listen to a podcast recording of this conversation here. Common definitions of ethnicity include:
  • A category of people who identify with each other based on similarities such as common ancestry, language, history, society, culture or nation.
  • An inherited status based on the society in which one lives. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be defined by a shared cultural heritage, ancestry, origin myth, history, homeland, language or dialect, symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, art or physical appearance.
  • A social group that has a common national or cultural tradition.
  • A social group that shares a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.

Let's Get Started!

Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate. 

Why We're Here (~10 min)

Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves.

Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.

Conversation Agreements:
How We'll Engage (~5 min)

These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)

  • Be curious and listen to understand.
  • Show respect and suspend judgment. 
  • Note any common ground as well as any differences. 
  • Be authentic and welcome that from others. 
  • Be purposeful and to the point. 
  • Own and guide the conversation. 

Question Rounds:
What We’ll Talk About

Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.

Round 1:
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)

Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:

Answer one or more of the following:
  • Has the choice to participate in these discussions brought up any new questions for you as it relates to the topic(s)?
  • Have you done any deeper exploration into the topic(s) since your previous  cohort conversation?
  • Has participating in these conversations affected the way you listen to others discuss this/these topic(s)?

Round 2:

What do we want to understand about ethnicity? (~40 min)

One participant can volunteer to read the paragraph at the top of the web page.

Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time allows..

  Speak from your own experience. Your experience is never wrong; neither is anyone else’s.  This is a rare opportunity to speak your own stories around ethnicity, and listen to others do the same.
  • How do you understand ethnicity?
  • How would you describe your own ethnicity? How has it impacted you?
  • Have you ever claimed an ethnicity that wasn’t yours or that wasn’t visibly yours in order to “pass,” or have privilege?
  • How have race and ethnicity functioned differently in your life, if they have?

Round 3:
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)

Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:

  • In one sentence, share what was most meaningful or valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation?
  • What new understanding or common ground did you find within this topic?
  • Has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
  • Name one important thing that was accomplished here.
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?

Closing (~5 min)

  • Give us feedback! Find our feedback form here.
  • Donate! Make more of these possible; give here.
  • Join or host more conversations! With a) this group by exchanging your emails; b) others in person and/or by video call online. Get more involved or learn how to host here.

Thank You!