Racial Healing

Image of group circle

What are Racial Healing Circles?

Racial healing circles are enacted to bring healing and restorative justice to communities. The circle goes beyond conversations about race; it is engaged to overcome bias. It is often used to the lay foundation for further anti-racism or diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work.  

Healing circles originated with North American indigenous peoples to bring peace and healing to communities. These traditional circle processes were adapted to create a safe space for people from different backgrounds to engage in intentional listening. At its core, the racial healing circle is a storytelling process used as a tool to approach difficult issues such as racial equity within the lens of empathy rather than sympathy. Participants within the circle connect by listening and sharing.

Why Have a Racial Healing Circle?

  • Circles temporarily suspend real and perceived hierarchies.
  • Everyone is equal in the circle.
  •  Circles meet basic human needs for connection through eye contact, proximity to others, and the experience of belonging.
  •  Circles support focus and attention away from distractions.
  • The circle process emphasizes perspective taking, compassion and empathy.
  •  Sharing authentic stories in a facilitated circle of engagement helps increase empathy for individuals and collectively among all circle participants.
  •  The focus, attention, and deep listening generate powerful changes in perception that help break down biases.

Source: Dr. Gail Christopher, RX Racial Healing

How Storytelling Affects the Brain


Image of the brain with caption "How storytelling affects the brain"

Source: Dr. Pamela Rutledge, Story Power: The Psychology of Story.