Operation Understanding DC (SS)

“Through conscious thinking we can be aware of stereotypes and battle racism”

By Shun

Background information
Operation Understanding D.C is an organization where they hold a yearlong program for African American and Jewish students in the D.C area. In this program, they study in-depth the history of the African American and Jewish experiences in the United States by traveling to New York and to the Deep South. The organization’s main goal is for students to learn from each other and develop relationships that erase racial, religious and ideological boundaries.

Our Experience
AJ, a staff from OUDC and 2 actual participants of the program, Ezra and Jake, took a visit to School Without Walls where we were. We started off with a little icebreaker, which identified the importance of communication. Then we were separated into 3 groups and were given 2 cards that had specific ‘group names’ on them. We were to list out all the stereotypes that we have about the groups that were given. We each shared our list and tried to guess what each of the groups were. At the end, we each shared our own opinions about the stereotypes that we unconsciously have, and how it changed over the stay in D.C.

The Big Idea
In our discussion, AJ began by entering the room holding the list with stereotypes that we wrote. He mentioned that when someone of a different ‘group’ enters the room, we all unconsciously think of the stereotypes that we have; the list that he was holding up. He also stated that throughout communication and getting to know each other, those stereotypes that we have would gradually disappear.

To defeat the ‘unconscious’ stereotypes, AJ listed out 4 action plans that we can take. 1) examine our beliefs & where they came from, 2) conscious thinking, 3) change our beliefs, 4) increase our option on how we interact with people. This is where AJ mentions what led to our Big Idea. Conscious thinking can make us aware of the stereotypes that we have, and it can increase our option on how we interact with people.

At the end, he gave us a question to think upon. ‘How do you think, feel, or act when you meet someone who thinks, feels, acts a different way?’ I believe that this strongly connects to our big idea. Normally, I think that anyone would not feel good to anyone with different ways of acting, but with conscious thinking, we can change our beliefs and come to accept different ideas.