The American Dream Isn't Working for Everyone. Here's a way to help people understand that. - Point Made Learning

The American Dream Isn’t Working for Everyone. Here’s a way to help people understand that.

In our documentary I’m Not Racist…Am I?, a multiracial group of teens and their families spend a school year learning and talking about race and racism. What they went through has inspired audiences all over the U.S. to learn more about how racism continues to be institutionalized and how that affects our everyday experiences.

One of the film’s more powerful scenes shows the group playing a board game called The American Dream. It’s essentially the Game of Life meets Chutes and Ladders, with players becoming characters with different identities and then seeing how structural inequity, stereotypes, and microaggressions get in the way of achieving “Success.”

By the time the kids in the film played the game, they had spent quite a bit of time together listening to one another’s personal experiences, but this took things to a whole different level. Here’s what one of the kids, Sacha, said at the end of the game:

“For all the workshops that we’ve done, I’ve heard everyone talking about how they’ve been discriminated against because of their race. And I mean, this is the first time that I’ve really, fully been able to understand that. Because I’ve never been in their place. So I’ve never felt, never experienced that discrimination. So this obviously isn’t the real thing, but it kind of gives me an idea of how frustrating it is to have all these things working against you.”

Sacha’s revelation was shared by the other students and it resonates so deeply with audiences that every time we screen the film, viewers ask us, “Where can I get that game?”

Well now you can!

We’ve recently worked with the creator, Jennifer Yim, who developed the game as part of her doctoral work in psychology at the University of Michigan, to update the game and package it for schools.

This new School Edition can be used with students, faculty & staff, parents, and any other community members ready to engage in meaningful lessons and dialogue about the ways race, gender, income, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and nationality affect a person’s everyday experiences and long-term opportunities.

Despite all the talk and money spent on diversity and inclusion (D&I) in school districts, higher education, corporations and beyond, there’s still so much debate about what works, what doesn’t, whether these initiatives are just a waste of time, or, worse, if they backfire.

This is all really hard to measure and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But what we have learned from recent research is that the types of D&I programs that seem to be the most effective involve two elements:

  1. Perspective-taking
  2. Goal-setting

The American Dream Game does both.

We’ve seen over and over again how players quickly make connections between their characters’ experiences in the game and what those experiences might feel like for real people in real life. And once you go through the experience of losing, no matter how well you roll the dice, or getting knocked back two spaces for every time you move ahead one — even if it’s only a game — you can’t forget that feeling and you can’t help but want to do something about it.

Here’s some early feedback we’ve gotten from our new School Edition:

“A fun, educational way to raise awareness of, and provoke discussion about, the intersectionality of identity and privilege, inclusion and exclusion. –Shanelle Henry, Director of Equity and Inclusion

“A highly interactive way to learn about race, bias, and privilege… As a facilitator, I’m grateful for The American Dream Experience as a learning tool, as a way to connect with colleagues, and as a springboard to conversations about life.”-Liza A. Talusan, PhD, CPC, ELI-MP, Strategic Consultant | Scholar-Practitioner | Facilitator and Trainer | Certified Professional Coach

The American Dream game is eye-opening, thought-provoking, and so engaging that players always want the experience to last longer. When was the last time you heard that about a diversity workshop?

Order it now for your classroom! Or, if you want to bring it to your workplace, find out more about that here.

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