This course opened my eyes, heart and mind to a broadened view of racism……challenging, motivating, interactive, meaningful, life changing…

Marilyn Hathaway

Hard Conversations:

An Introduction to Racism


Online Readings, Live Conversations,

and Interviews about Racism



Winter 2018: January 24 – February 26

Spring 2018: March 20 – April 15


 Facilitated by Authors and Social Justice Activists,

Patti Digh and Victor Lee Lewis, 

featured in the groundbreaking film,

“The Color of Fear.”

This is an extraordinary course. The videos, writings, and in-depth interviews stretched my understanding of race. But that was just the start.

There were rich online exchanges between others in the course and opportunities to talk in breakout groups during our phone sessions. I have never experienced a teacher as thoughtful, creative, and generous with her time as Patti was in this course.

Alice Lonoff

I was fortunate to be a part of the first version of this class… well worth your time. World class facilitators and instructors, participants interested in real work and growth.

Molly Casteel

What This Is

This is a month-long online seminar program hosted by authors, speakers, and social justice activists Patti Digh and Victor Lee Lewis, who was featured in the documentary film, The Color of Fear, with help from a community of people who want and are willing to help us understand the reality of racism by telling their stories and sharing their resources.

Why now?

If you have been watching the news, you know the answer to this question.

How can I suggest resources and people to interview?

You will have an opportunity to do this daily in the classroom.

How Will This Work, and How Can I Enroll?

After enrolling in this course (at the bottom of this page), you will receive a link to enter our online classroom. Once there, you will receive materials relevant to each of the four weeks of the course, one day at a time. These materials will include reading materials, as well as audio and video links, questions for the community to discuss in the classroom, and “assignments.” This class has been described as a “firehose” of information – all of us will have differing amounts of time to devote in these four weeks – do what you can, where you are, and remember that stressing about the classroom materials is a misdirection of your energy. Focus instead on what you are learning. Once each week, we will meet by phone or webinar to talk about that past week’s reading and classroom conversation. These calls will be facilitated by Patti Digh and Victor Lee Lewis along with other subject matter experts.

Rules of Engagement

Do not enroll without reading this.

As a community, we are seeking to understand, to learn, to deepen our knowledge of racism. We want to learn how to become more effective allies against racism. By enrolling in this course, you are committing to reading all the materials provided in our online classroom, asking honest and respectful questions, and being open to hearing opinions that are different from your own–with an eye to learning, not judging. More about that below. By choosing to participate in this conversation, we all agree that no question, if asked respectfully, is off bounds, no statement is stupid, no lack of awareness is to be belittled. Because we can either judge or learn, but we cannot do both those things at the same time. As a community, we are choosing to learn. Non-respectful language, judgments, and comments with a lot of exclamation points to express your disbelief at the comments of others (you know what I mean–you have seen it) will be dealt quickly and with an intention to educate first. Let us demonstrate first what it means to use respectful questions to bridge differences before attacking others’ statements or beliefs, and before making statements containing assumptions. Question your assumptions first before making a statement that negates someone else. One good way to do this is by starting with a question that expresses curiosity, not challenge. Clear and civil. Questioning, not stating. Opening, not closing.  

Hard Conversations took me deeper into a conversation I have been having for 25 years, and opened my eyes to the complexity of being white in what is, for lack of any better language, a white supremacy: the United States.
Some things I learned that I hope will inspire others to take this course and step into this work are: Let your heart be broken. Be brave. Speak up. Be invitational rather than confrontational. Dialogue, don’t debate. White privilege is a thing we (white folks) must educate ourselves about. So is white fragility. Feel the grief and the shame. Reach out for support when you need it – this work is HARD. Realizing that you have white privilege and then doing nothing about it is the ultimate act of white privilege. Once you see your white privilege clearly, and you are willing to lose it, start using it as a weapon against white supremacy.

Take this course. Know there will be no turning back once you do.

Beckett Coppola

What This is Not

This is not a comprehensive course on racism. To believe such a course is possible in four weeks is to reveal one of our deepest myths about racism–that with the right intention, we can take quick action to “fix” it.  History will teach us otherwise.

This course is intended to provide a spark of awareness and a more helpful set of questions. There are many steps that must be taken after awareness, and we will include resources for further discovery and future action.

Please note: while we will include discussions of racism in general and across several dimensions of diversity, you will find most resources focused on black/white racism, given the recent Charleston murders, church burnings, and violent arrests of young black men and women. This is true also because discussions of black/white racism are what prompted the creation of this course,  though this is not our only focus.

We will hear diverse voices, we will ask questions, we will tell our own truths, and we will become allies–and not just allies, but effective allies.

What are the dates and times for the live seminars?

There are two learning spaces for this course: An online classroom and our weekly live seminars that take place from 8-9:15pm Eastern via telephone conference. Please note: You will receive a link via email to join the virtual classroom on the first day of class. The first live Seminar is one week later. The calls will be recorded, should you not be able to participate live.

Jan-Feb 2018 Live Seminar Dates: January 31, February 7, 14, 21

Mar-April 2018 Live Seminar Dates: March 27, April 3, 10, 17

Why did Patti Digh create this?

Perhaps there is skepticism about why a 56-year-old Southern-born and raised white woman created these conversations. Some have suggested that as a neophyte to this world of race dialogue, I should call in experts. I appreciate these sentiments because this is complex work, and I wanted to share some of my 30+ years of background in this field to allay those fears. I am hosting this series of conversations simply to provide a safe place for dialogue about race to take place, to provide vetted resources for people who want to do something to help eradicate racism but don’t know enough about the impact of racism, its history, or their collusion in it, to do so effectively. I am working in concert with diverse professionals in the field to ensure that this is meaningful, fair, and safe for all involved. You can read about my work on anti-racism, diversity, and inclusion issues here.

Meet Your Hosts

Patti DighHard Conversations founder, Patti Digh, is joined again for this class by social justice educator Victor Lee Lewis, who was featured in the documentary on race relations, “The Color of Fear.” In 1994, seeing that documentary changed the course of Patti’s work in the world; in August 2015, she sent a message to the man in the film whose comments most changed her. That man was Victor Lee Lewis. One conversation led to another, and another, as they realized how much they have in common about their approach to social justice work, and beyond. The October 2015 cohort of Hard Conversations was greatly enhanced with Victor’s input, and they look forward to continuing this co-facilitation for the next course. About Victor Lee Lewis VLL Head Shot Victor Lee Lewis, MA, is the Founder and Director of the Radical Resilience Institute, and Radical Resilience Coaching and Consulting. He is a Progressive Life Coach, trainer, speaker, and social justice educator. Victor provides individual and group life coaching, training, and keynote lectures. His work aims to support transformative change agents in improving and maximizing their emotional resilience, mental flexibility, and personal effectiveness. Victor brings a unique socially progressive vision to the work of personal growth, personal empowerment, and emotional health. This is the fruit of his 30+ years search for personal healing and social justice, and as many years developing and applying liberatory educational approaches to bring healing and justice to others. A nationally respected social justice educator, Victor has conducted seminars, workshops, keynote speeches, and “train the trainer” programs across the United States, as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Germany. He is best known for his inspiring leadership role in The Color of Fear, a documentary about racism which received the Golden Apple Award for “Best Social Studies Documentary” of 1995 from the National Educational Media Association. He is co-author, with Hugh Vasquez, of Lessons from The Color of Fear, a 4-volume multimedia curriculum for use in classrooms and trainings programs. Lewis has served as Chaplain/Spiritual Director at the Starr King School for the Ministry (Unitarian Universalist), a seminary of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. An ally in the struggle to end sexism, Lewis is a former member of the Leadership Council of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS). From 1993-1995 he also served as Co-Chair of this organization. Between 1990-1996, Lewis served as Director of Adult Education at the Oakland Men’s Project (OMP), one of the oldest and most respected multicultural violence prevention training programs in the nation. He is a past member of the board of A Safe Place, the battered women’s shelter program for the city of Oakland, California, and former Co-Chair of the Black Church and Domestic Violence Institute. An activist with deep environmental concern, Lewis is a founding board member of the Urban Habitat Program, and a former board member of Urban Ecology, Inc. Lewis received his Master of Arts in Culture and Spirituality in 1987 from the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality (ICCS) at Holy Names College in Oakland, California. He is a trainer in Neuro-Linguistic Programing (NLP), and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a certified NLP hypnotherapist and a resilient and thriving trauma survivor.


Detailed topics, readings, and other resources

for each week will be posted in our online classroom


On Systemic Racism


On White Privilege


On Color Blindness

and Microaggressions


On Being an Effective Ally

What Will You Do Next?

This course has changed my life, my awareness is expanding with each speaker, book and article. Thank you Patti Digh for opening space for learning.

Mazie Yewell

I’ve just signed up for my 2nd time for this course. If you are looking for a safe space to understand this conversation on racism and the history of how it came to be…. I encourage you to sign up.

The list of resources, alone, are worth the price. AND the conversations and perspectives shared are priceless. You will be challenged and stretched by this course. So much has been left out of our history books and by the media.

Elaine Hansen


Ericka Hines, J.D.

Trainer, Consultant, Ally

Liz Amaya-Fernandez

Tiffany Harper, Esq.

Attorney and Diversity Leader

Tracy Brown

Voice & Guide for Inclusion

Alison Campbell

Clint Smith

Poet, Educator, Doctoral Candidate at Harvard

Dr. Franki Trujillo-Dalbey

Intercultural Trainer and Consultant

Bradley Wilkinson

Volunteer YWCA racial justice facilitator

Beth Applegate

Change agent, organization development practitioner, and author


Dr. Rodney Coates

Professor of Sociology and Black World Studies

Miami University in Ohio

Esther Louie

Intercultural Educator and Consultant

Jane Elliott

Social equality and anti-racism activist, diversity trainer

Amer Ahmed

College Administrator, Facilitator, Poet and Hip Hop Activist

Emma Alvarez Gibson


Desiree Adaway

Change/Leadership Facilitator, Consultant, Activist

Melanie DewBerry

Writer, Spiritual Teacher

Kat Danser

Canadian Musician, Vocalist, and Ph.D student in musicology

Mic Crenshaw

Cultural Activist, Emcee, Poet

Victor Lee Lewis

Social Justice Educator

Patti Digh

Author, Speaker, Activist

I want to help stop racism!

There are two upcoming sessions of Hard Conversations: Intro to Racism.

The cost is $99

Four Weeks of Daily Lessons & Dialogue, Plus Four Live Webinars

Group rates are available for groups of 10+ people.

Special rates are available for returning students.

For information on group rates, email

Please select the upcoming session dates to continue:

Intro to Racism January 2018

2018: January 24 – February 26


Intro to Racism March 2018

2018: March 20 – April 15


The cost is $99

Group rates are available for groups of 10+ people.

Special rates are available for returning students.

For information on group rates, email

Do you have a question about the Intro to Racism course? Click here to view the FAQ page for this course.