Writing the Self Analysis – Looking for Normative Narratives
I) Normative Narratives
When I spent some time reading many of my peers’ self-story number 2, I noticed that many of my peers have lived racially segregated lives. Now this is not to say that my peers delibrately subject themselves to racially segregated areas of living, education, and social environments or that they purposefully only associating with people who are of the same skin colour, rather they have become accustomed to a system that discretely separates society into ethnic groups and do not notice any detriment to their knowledge of the world as they have become used to the separation.
For example, Brandon makes a brilliant observation that serves as a revelation when he notices a student in his new school has a different skin colour than the rest of the students, including himself. Brandon makes an important observation when he says, “It was at this moment that I realized it was the first time I had gone to school with someone that was not white. I quickly sat down and thought about how naïve it was of me to think that only people who looked like me would go to school here”. Regardless, it goes to show that many people live racially segregated lives unbeknownst to them. I felt a connection to Brandon’s story as I know what it’s like to be the odd one out or the token person of colour. I vividly remember a classmate remarking that my skin was the same colour of the dandelion weeds. I have been people’s catalyst of their personal epiphanies. And that is a lot to burden as a person of colour in a predominantly white society.
Another example of how many live racially segregated lives is what is taught in school curriculums. Curtis points this lack of diversity in education programs when he says, “Looking back and thinking deeper about the question, I began to think about the schoolwork we were doing. Even though it was a number of years ago, I remember the textbooks. More specifically how there was mainly white people in the textbooks” . This pattern of omitting peoples of colours’ history is ingrained in many pre-dominantly white societies. I remember that I had to assimilate the way I spoke to the standards of my white classmates rather than having any sort of curriculum incorporate my cultural differences and expand my white classmates’ understandings of cultural differences. I was made to feel as though that I was the one who needed to be fixed.
II) Creating Counter-Stories: Disrupting Normative Narratives
It is clear that racial segregation exists in many people’s lives and it goes unnoticed until some sort of epiphany occurs. Whether it is the first encounter with someone different from you or stepping into someone else’s shoes, some sort of retrospect is what makes us recognize this division. But, what is to be done when we can recognize these racial boundary lines? What actions can we take when we understand that we have been separated from our fellow human beings?
One thing we can do is ask questions. Jenna, who’s best friend is a person of colour, recognizes this subconcious expectation from other people to be racially segregated. She makes an important point when she says, “When we don’t talk about skin colour as children, they are left on their own to make conclusions about these differences and can lead to misguided or biased opinions”. Jenna recognizes the importance of beginning a dialogue with our peers and, more importantly, with peoples of colour. Her story differs from Brandon’s story and Curtis’s story as she isn’t paralyzed by guily, thus leading to inaction.
Understanding how to begin these dialogues can be difficult but Glenn E. Singleton and Cyndie Hays (n.d.) wrote an article called “Beginning Courageous Conversations about Race” that can help us understand how to navigate the sensitive topic of race. Singleton and Hays say that the four key points of courageous conversations is to stay engaged, expect to experience discomfort, speak your truth, and expect and accept a lack of closure (Singleton and Hays, n.d., pp. 19-21).
Of course, these courageous conversations are meant to take place with our peers. But it is more important to focus on the class setting as this is where the identities of future generations are formed. In these conversations, there are many common rebuttals to be expected. Özlem Sensoy and Robin Diangelo (2017) delve into these common rebuttals including appealing to a universalized humanity or insisting on immunity from socialization (pp. 205- 206). There are many ways to refute these rebuttals, but the most effective way is to understand where these rebuttals come from and who do they intend to silence and who they intend to privilege. With these understandings it becomes much easier to engage in Courageous Conversations, just like Jenna intended to do in her short story, and talk about how we subconciously abide to living with racial boundaries.
Sensoy, O., & DiAngelo, R. (2017). Is everyone really equal? (2nd ed.). Teachers’ College Press.
Singleton, G.E., & Hays, C. (n.d.). Beginning Courageous Conversations about Race. Retrieved on March 29, 2020, from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8VQFXPP3QToNzBRcExhcUdwVXM/view