who's coming to dinner
Theme I & M
Have you ever seen Spencer Tracy and Katherine
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.
• 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
• 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
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
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
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
• What if it was the boy presenting
• Do you believe that this kind of
conflict is still common nowadays or is it something from
• 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.
You have decided to face your family
and tell them that you want to live with your black
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
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
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.
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