Road to Racial Justice board game: Opening up conversations with young people

by guest blogger Kesa Kivel

Road to Racial Justice is a free downloadable, educational “board” game for ages 13+. Racism and white privilege are addressed through critical thinking, social analysis, and team-based discussion. Through the game, players become more aware that racism exists in many everyday situations (both interpersonal and institutional), learn why the situations are racist (stereotyping, tokenism, cultural appropriation, etc.), and acquire tools to interrupt these kinds of situations.

The game was initially conceived as an activity leading up to a “Stand Against Racism” rally I was co-organizing at the YWCA in Santa Monica, California, where I had volunteered to teach workshops on race and gender. Beginning in 2012, I worked with a multiracial focus group over a three-year period to develop the game.

There are 44 Situation cards in the Road to Racial Justice “Board” Game, each one describing a unique, everyday kind of racism, offering discussion points about it, and ways to intervene. (In order to advance on the game board you must intervene.)

Many people, if they believe that racism exists at all, are only aware of incidents of racism reported in the news, for example, race-related graffiti, shootings, riots, and egregious racial remarks by politicians and celebrities. The effects of “everyday” racism (those not normally mentioned in the media) are often minimized or denied—like discriminatory banking practices or racist jokes.

One of the 44 Situation cards is about a young person who hears his uncle tell a racist joke about Asian Americans at the dinner table. I remember playing the game with a White 16-year old player who had picked that card affirming, “It’s OK to tell a joke about ‘them’ because how could that joke be harmful if he were just joking around and there were no Asian Americans in the room?”

“Other people, upon hearing this conversation, especially other young people, would likely think that the uncle’s behavior is OK, perhaps leading to not having friends who are Asian American…or perhaps leading to becoming a person who is more likely to harass someone who is Asian American. One way we learn is from our experience of observing others,” I explained.

I also asked: “Why would we support a mindset that suggests one group is superior to another? Is that fair?”

I don’t really know if the 16-year-old “got it”—his body language indicated to me that he was resisting—but maybe my explanation planted seeds of understanding and compassion that would bloom later. We have to risk our own discomfort, and the discomfort of others, when offering for discussion a difficult topic that might challenge deep-seated beliefs.

I have been greatly encouraged by reflections of students who have played the game:

“I learned that my whole life I have been treated a certain way by the people around me, because I am White, which I had never really thought about before.”

“Before playing the game whenever the topic of racism would come up, I wouldn’t share my opinion because I felt I would offend someone…Now I’m more confident and courageous regardless of the feedback.”

With each conversation about racial justice, we can make a difference. I hope you will use this free resource to open up racial justice conversations with young people.

Please share your questions and suggestions for improving the game in the comments section below.


Kesa Kivel is a Los Angeles-based educator, filmmaker, and activist engaged in social justice issues.

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