1.1 - Developing our Community - Exploring the Tensions Together

1.1 — Developing our Community – Exploring the Tensions Together (30 minutes)

Materials needed: None

Purpose of piece: To explore and share participants’ personal experiences with the various tensions described in Chapter 1 in order to create a shared understanding among group members.

Say to group: This exercise is called a human barometer. It is a way for us to explore and share our beliefs about a set of ideas. There are no wrong answers and no wrong place to be. And just like any thought or feeling, it can change at any time. As we go through this exercise, please remember that you can move your position at any point. You might hear another person’s idea that shifts your own thinking.

Facilitator’s Note: Distribute the Tension Pairs handout so participants can read along, if desired. This might reduce the need to orally read the statements multiple times.)

To get started, I am going to read two statements (Set 1). Consider what degree you feel pulled to one statement or the other. This is something that may change for you. But, at this moment in time, if you resonate most with the first statement, place yourself on the right side of the room. If you resonate most with the second statement, place yourself on the left side of the room. If you resonate with both statements equally, place yourself in the center. This is a continuum, so you may stand in any position that illustrates how you feel about the two statements. (Pause for participants to place themselves on the continuum.)

Facilitator’s Note: Once the participants locate themselves along the continuum, share in some discussion regarding why they chose that place to stand. Then, proceed to Set 2, and so on. (For discussion, you may elect do this as a sequence of pair shares or small group discussions with share outs of a few minutes each). Extend the conversation as long as desired to allow the group to learn about each other’s personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings.

Set 1 Our mindset influences how much we experience suffering. And Systemic injustice creates suffering in the U.S. regardless of an individual’s mindset.
Set 2 Focusing on the transcendent involves looking beyond racial categories. And Being race conscious allows us to recognize that although race is not real, it has real impacts.
Set 3 Focusing on our deepest humanity allows us to see beyond race. And Focusing on race allows us to recognize the depth of humanity’s challenges
Set 4 Every human deserves care, love, and positive regard while seeking to raise awareness. And Developing race consciousness can be painful; it’s our job to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted.”
Set 5


Add something specific to your community, as desired.


And Add something specific to your community, as desired.



Ask large group follow up questions, as desired or relevant:

  1. How does your position on the continuum affect how you approach actions and activities intended to further racial justice and healing?
  2. To what degree do differences in orientation contribute to challenges for a group when making decisions?

Facilitator’s Note: If there is a lot of energy around these topics, this activity could take double the time allotted. If used as a main activity and you’d like to spend a full hour in exploration, use the following plan: Provide about 5 minutes per set for small group discussion, 5 minutes per set of share outs, and then another 15 minutes of whole group follow up discussion when people are back at their seats. This could amount to approximately one hour of time.

If you prefer to maintain the 30 minute schedule, alert the participants early in the process that this is a warm up discussion and that later exercises are intended to delve more deeply into the various ideas.

Wrap-up: The purpose of this activity is to learn more about one another. The hope is that the more we know about each other’s thought process and personal history, the more we will understand each other’s responses to future challenges and be able to work together to find resolution.