Learning Community Conversation Guide for Session 4 – Seeing the Humanity in Others

Suggested Reading: (pg15-20), 6 (pg31-34), 7 (pg35-38), 8 (pg39-44), and 9 (pg49-48) 

Start: Welcome participants back to this space

Re-Introductions: Go around the room, beginning with moderator: name, pronouns (if they’re comfortable), role on campus  

Ground Rules for Discussion: Review out loud the bolded portions of the OEI-provided Ground Rules and, if applicable, the additional rules your group agreed upon in the introductory session (and since). 

  • Speak Your Truth: Share from your own experiences
  • Seek to Understand: Actively listen, before responding 
  • Respect Others’ Experience: We may have different OR similar stories to share, and contexts to draw from. All are legitimate. 
  • Disagree Without Discord: Disagreement is expected. HOWEVER,
    • Approach unexpected ideas with curiosity, not argument. 
    • If you disagree, debate and challenge ideas. Don’t attack the speaker. 
  • Share the Air: Make room for all voices to be heard, and don’t dominate the conversation. 
  • Confidentiality: 
    • Share stories and experiences, but don’t identify individual people or provide details that would allow someone in your story to be identified. 
    • Do not share the experiences you hear in this space outside this space. 

Conflict Management: Review the conflict management procedures your group created together in your introductory session. 

Questions (about anything?)

Group Discussion: Paraphrase the italicized portion as desired.  

Our identities—which are a combination of how we see ourselves and how others see us—shape our interactions with one another. However, our identities are not static or monolithic: they are shaped by our physical ability AND our race and ethnicity AND our biological sex and gender identity AND our political affiliation AND our Socioeconomic status AND the relationships we’ve had, and so many other factors. In a given context, any of the above factors can seem like the most important aspect of our identity, but they will never be the only thing that defines us. 

However, we often subconsciously—or perhaps deliberately—sort people into ‘boxes’ that are based on one or few aspects of their identities, as we perceive them. And we may treat people as though 

the categories we’ve sorted them in to matter more to us than any other aspect of who they are. In this way, we reproduce and reinforce the differences that drive the historical advantages and disadvantages that shape our lives (which were listed in the One-up and One-down table on page 3). 


Choose one to discuss, or spend 15-20 min on each. Or let participants come up with topics 

A) Have you noticed what you first “see” when you meet someone new? Is it their sex, race, accent, physical ability, or some other factor? Have you noticed whether the first thing that jumps out is something that distinguishes them from you, or is an indicator of similarity or familiarity? How does context (where you are, what you’re doing) affect this? How have what you first “see,” and the assumptions you make based on what you “see,” changed over time? Why has it changed? Is it still evolving? 

Objective: No matter where we’ve grown up, we’ve been given a cultural toolkit that shapes how we see and understand ourselves and each other, and that toolkit comes into play in each of our encounters. The purpose of this discussion is to recognize where and how we have acquired this toolkit, how it has shaped how we treat people, and the ways in which our understandings of people—and the “kinds” of people—have since evolved. 

B) Referring back to the “One-Up and One-Down” table on page 3, think about the ways that the factors that shape our identities (physical ability, race, gender identity, class, sexuality, etc.) also shape our relative advantages and disadvantages. How might the ‘boxes’ you place people into at first glance affect the patterns of personal or historical privilege that they experience? As you have become aware of this, what changes have you made in your engagements with people, in order to disrupt these patterns of disadvantage? 

Objective: Historical patterns of advantage of disadvantage, which are based on a vast continuum of difference, persist on a societal level, but are acted out and experienced on the individual level. The purpose of this discussion is to recognize the importance of the personal role we have in recognizing and demonstrating the humanity in others. 

Next Sessions 

Would anyone like to volunteer to facilitate the next session? Our Logistical Facilitator can email us for volunteers later, if no one wants to decide now.