Our true feelings about race and identity are revealed in six words (Michele Norris, 1/11/24, Washington Post)

I printed 200 black postcards at my local FedEx Kinko’s on upper Wisconsin Avenue asking people to condense their thoughts on race or cultural identity into one sentence of six words. The front of the cards simply read:

Race. Your thoughts. 6 words. Please send.

I left the cards everywhere I traveled: in bookstores, in restaurants, at the information kiosks in airports, on the writing desks at all my hotels. Sometimes I snuck them inside airline in-flight magazines or left them at the sugar station at Starbucks. I hoped a few of those postcards would come back, thinking it would be worth the trouble if even a dozen people responded.

Much to my surprise, strangers who stumbled on the cards would follow the instructions and use postage stamps to mail their six-word stories back to me in D.C. Since my parents were both postal workers, this gave me an extra thrill. Here I was, doing my part to support the Postal Service. Who says snail mail is dead?

Half a dozen cards arrived within a week, then 12, then 20. Over time, that trickle became a tide. I have received more than 500,000 of these stories — and more arrive every day, though the vast majority of submissions now arrive through a website portal online. They have come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. […]

To keep the conversation going, I created a complementary website for the Race Card Project, where people could submit their six-word stories online. Over time we added two words to the submission form: “Anything else?” That changed everything. People sent in poems, essays, memos and historical documents to explain why they chose their six words. The archive came alive. It became an international forum where people could share their own stories but also learn much about life, as if it were lived by someone else.