Unmasking- A Dialogue for Black Men

Conversation Guide

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There is a “mask” that Black men wear in the world to be safe in public spaces. It does not cry. It does not get mad. It does not feel pain. It does not get hurt. It does not have the right to exert authority or control. It is the Mask of Respectability. Walking into public spaces without it can get them killed. The anxiety in their hearts can get them killed. Their fight or flight response when threatened can get them killed. Exertion of their very right to life and autonomy can get them killed. During this Living Room Conversation, Black men can remove their masks to speak freely and authentically about their own experiences.

Background Information:

This guide was created in partnership with Media Done Responsibly as part of their 2020 Summer of Wellness Series.

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:

  • What are your hopes and concerns for your family, community and/or the country?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are?
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?

Round 2:

Unmasking- A Dialogue for Black Men (~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..

  • What thoughts and emotions have the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd brought up in you? What has this been like for you?
  • How has your reaction or the reaction of those around you surprised you?
  • To what extent have recent events impacted your everyday life and movement in the world? How has home life and work shifted?
  • What are you doing for self-care? How are your sleep patterns, exercise, eating, relating, intimacy, connection, spiritual practices?

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

Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:

  • What was most meaningful / valuable to you in this Living Room Conversation
  • What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on the topic?
  • How has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?

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!