Guess who's coming to dinner
Level 4
Theme I & M

Have you ever seen Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn
having dinner together? Perhaps you are too young when the film first came out. But it's never too late! This activity is a roleplay.

Issues addressed

• Stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.

• The transmission of prejudice through the processes of socialisation and education.

• Dealing with conflict.


• To analyse the messages we have received from our own family about people with a different cultural or social background

• To analyse the values behind those messages

• To be aware of the role of the family in transmitting society's values

Time: 45 minutes

Group size: Any. Minimum eight people


• Copies of the role cards

• Paper and pens for the special observers


1. Explain to the group that this is a role-play to explore the role of the family in transmitting images about people who belong to other social or cultural groups.

2. Ask for 4 volunteers to play the roles (preferably two of each sex) and for 4 others to be special observers. The rest of the group are general observers.

3. Tell each special observer to watch one of the role players and take note of all the arguments they used. Decide who is to watch whom.

4. Gives one role card to each of the players and allow them 2 or 3 minutes to get into role.

5. Prepare the scene: place 4 chairs in a semi-circle and explain to everyone that this is the living room of a house and that they are going to watch a family discussion. Give a signal, e.g. clap your hands, to start the roleplay.

6. You will have to decide how long to let the roleplay run depending on the way it develops. 15 minutes is a good length of time. Give a clear signal to indicate the end.

Debriefing and evaluation

Start the evaluation with a round of the actors saying how they felt.

Then ask each observer in turn to read out the arguments used by each of the actors to persuade the others of their point of view.

Follow on with a general discussion with everyone. You can ask:

• Were the arguments used similar to those you have heard in your own families?

• Would it have been different if, instead of being black, the boyfriend was the same colour as the girl?

• Would things have been different if, instead of a girl bringing home a boyfriend, it was a boy who was bringing home a girl friend?

• What would have happened if the girl had announced that she had a relationship with another girl?

• What if it was the boy presenting his boyfriend?

• Do you believe that this kind of conflict is still common nowadays or is it something from the past?

• Has this happened to you or do you know of anybody in your neighbourhood who has faced a similar kind of challenge?

Tips for the facilitator

If the group is already familiar with role-playing no more instructions are need­ed, otherwise it is important to stress that playing a role is different from acting.­ In role-playing we remain ourselves while presenting a pre-determined role or attitude; when acting we must interpret a character different from our own person. Therefore it is not a matter of dramatisation or acting but rather of representing and exploring a role or attitude.

If you consider that the roles are too prescriptive, or that they have nothing to do with your reality you can make your own role cards giving an outline of four common attitudes typical of families in your culture. If you want to adapt the idea and write more roles, do so.

The activity is easily adaptable to the cultural and social reality of the participants. If a black person would be thought exotic because there are no black people locally then let the girl's boyfriend may be a Muslim, or if the family is Catholic then introduce a Jew etc.

Suggestions for follow up

If you want to explore further your attitudes and reactions to people of different nationalities do the activity 'Euro-rail a la carte'. How understanding and open to people who are different are you really? Find out how difficult it might be in practice to be as tolerant as you would wish.

It may be that you want to move on from race and religion to look at other forms of prejudice. Or it may be that you already adapted this activity and had the lesbian daughter bring home her girl friend. In any case you may like to look in Compass at the activity, 'Let's talk about sex!' It uses the "fish bowl" technique to explore attitudes towards sexuality, including homosexuality and the right to marry and found a family.



The situation:

You have decided to face your family and tell them that you want to live with your black boyfriend.

You start the roleplay. You announce to your family that you are going to live with your boyfriend, who is black. Try to defend your decision and argue that you are going to make a stand to counter the prejudice against relationships between young people and especially relationships between young people of different origins



The situation:

Your daughter has a black boyfriend with whom she has a very close relationship.

You love your daughter very much but you do not understand how she could do this to you. You support your husband in everything he says. You do not threaten your daughter, rather you tend to feel sorry about the pain she causes you. You think the black boy will abandon her and that she will suffer a lot.



The situation:

Your sister has a black boyfriend with whom she has a very close relationship

In principle you do not care if your sister goes out with a black man, and in fact you defend the right for people to be free in their relationships. Nevertheless, when your mother says that he is likely to abandon your sister you start to think that he might be using her. You show your concern and want to protect your sister.



The situation:

Your daughter has a black boyfriend with whom she is developing a very close relationship.

You are the authority in the home, and you don't approve of your daughter's relationship. You represent the moral mainstream and you care about what people will say. You do not consider yourself racist but your daughter marrying a black is something different. Think of a strict father and argue as he would argue.


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