July 2021

A discussion agenda prepared for an informal study group. Please feel free to adapt and reuse.

Adapted from The Racial Healing Handbook, by Anneliese A. Singh, PhD, LPC and Summary of Stages of Racial Identity Development, by Cynthia Silva Parker and Jen Willsea, Interaction Institute for Social Change.

Pre-discussion Homework

Time: 15-20 minutes


  • For each question, write the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t analyze it. 
  • Try not to judge yourself. Try to stay curious and open-minded. 
  • If you do feel shame/blame/guilt, consider what’s influencing you and what support you need to feel secure & positive in your racial identity. 


  1. Earliest memories of race & racism: Think back to when you first realized that you had a racial identity.
    1. What did this experience teach you to think about your own race?
    2. How did you feel about the experience?
    3. What did you need to know to understand race & racism in a more complete way? How would it have changed things for you while you were growing up?
  2. Racial identity development models: 
    1. Pick one model that matches your identity (or something close to it). The models are on pages 2-4 (PDF link). 
    2. Read the stages of the model you chose. (If the descriptions in your model are short, you can refer to page 1 for additional resources or read the more general descriptions from the Integrated Model on page 4.)
    3. Which parts match with your experience? 
    4. Which parts don’t?
    5. Do the stages trigger any memories or experiences? (It can be something that matches a stage in the model or that is missing from the model.)
  3. Current racial identity: 
    1. Where would you place yourself in the model today? 
    2. What support do you need to progress?
    3. What pulls you back into earlier schemas?

Discussion Agenda

Time: 75-90 minutes

Group: 5-7 people

Purpose: To learn more about our own racial identity and the experiences of others, in order to expand our understanding of race and challenge stereotypes.

Meeting guidelines [~2 min]

  • The is a “brave space” — we are here to share and learn together, to test and challenge our ways of thinking and figure out what is fair & true.
  • Share only what is comfortable to you. It is ok to “pass” if you don’t feel like discussing something.
  • Flow in & flow out so that everyone has a chance to speak.

Check in [~15 min]

  • Each participant shares how they’re feeling and any recent experiences relating to race or DEI.

Main discussion

  1. Racial Identity [~20 min]
    1. How do you identify now? What is your cultural background (racial/ethnic/nationality/etc)? 
    2. Has it changed?
    3. Are there any early memories or milestones that you would like to share?
  2. The Models [~20 min]
    1. Which model did you pick? Any general impressions?
    2. “Each stage is important” — Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
    3. What has helped you (or others) progress from one stage to another?
  3. Current Development Stage [~20 min]
    1. Where would you place yourself in the model today?
    2. What pulls you back into earlier schemas?
    3. What support do you need to progress?

Check out [~10 min]

  • Each participant has a chance to share final thoughts and any specific tasks or requests.

Facilitator Notes

Discussion benefits

  • Seeing how people are in different “schemas” helps us to understand the different misunderstandings, disagreements and disconnections about race
  • Understanding racial identity development increases our ability to act more consciously and with more empathy.
  • Having a strong racial identity* leads to more secure awareness of your race & how racism works; which leads to more informed decisions, more accurate thoughts; which turns into communities that are more inclusive and equitable

    * A strong racial identity = a sense of your race, the privileges and disadvantages afforded to it, what you might owe or should expect from others

About the models

  1. Racial identity development is influenced by the world around us and the experiences we’ve had. We are socialized — taught by individuals, institutions, culture… Cycle of socialization
  2. The model is a simplified picture & a general starting point for understanding racial identity — it doesn’t include things like immigration, class, adoption, etc. The models won’t fit for every one.
  3. Developing a racial identity isn’t actually linear. There is overlapping & cycling. 
  4. Each part of the model is an important place to be. You learn different things about yourself and how you relate to other races.