i) Normative Narratives
After looking at and reflecting on my fellow classmates’ blog posts, I found there was an abundance of perspectives that could be seen as relating to my own normative narrative. Often when looking at race I believe that a consensus normative narrative is that at a young age, people tend to be ignorant about race, but yet it has no affect on how we judge one another. That once we reach high school, our obliviousness becomes a more educated understanding of diversity. I look back to my understanding on the subject as a child in school. Although as time went on, I like the other students, became more educated and aware of the diversity around me, we continued to interact without bias. I believe Ben’s post “Writing the self #3” shares a key piece of the normative narrative I was trying so desperately to display. In his blog he writes, “His skin color never got in the way of us being friends.” The retelling of a specific friendship that started at a young age and over time only became stronger. Ben also mentions, “I never thought about how his skin color might affect his life and how people might treat him because of his skin color.” I relate to this in the sense that it demonstrates the timeline which I was trying to show in my own school experience. Going from being oblivious to the race of others around me to becoming more educated on other students’ diverse backgrounds and possible struggles. I also noticed that similar to my blog, this newly found understanding in no way changed the long lasting friendship of the students.
I was able to get reassurance when reading these blogs that my experiences throughout school were not the outlier. By this I mean trying to relate my own normative narrative to other students’ experiences, and see if in elementary school, are race and or racism left out of the curriculum. Often the answer was yes. An example of such is in Lily’s post “Writing to Self: Race, where she describes before high school, “Racism was never discussed in classrooms that I can remember.” I found this to be immediately interesting because she mentions going to school in a small Christian School, whereas I went to school at a large public school. My point is that regardless of where you went for elementary school, such talks are seemingly non-existent. She then goes on to say, “Once I got to high school I started to spend more time on social media and figuring out what was really going on in the “real world”. Similar to that of Ben’s blog, I feel as though her normative narrative ties into that of my own. Starting off with being aware of differences, yet having the mentality that we all did as kids at that age, “Ignorance is bliss.” This is followed by my shared earlier mentioned understanding that came from teachers beginning to go in depth on the subject more in high school or other factors available at an older age such as the influence of certain media. I saw a shared normative narrative throughout all of our stories, and although our understanding changed and we became more aware, we never lost that mindset we had as kids to continue to interact without bias.
ii) Creating counter-stories: Disrupting normative narratives
Although my personal experiences that lead to my own normative narrative did not seemingly differ too much from my fellow classmates, I did find that Sara’s post “School” disrupted my perceived normative narrative, that at a young age people tend to be ignorant about race until high school, and act without bias. I found reading her own experiences to be very eye opening as she describes going to a small school in Sylvania and being taught as well as believing that, “Everyone was everyone’s friend.” Her story is one of innocence being crushed by a harsh reality as she acknowledges such an ideology to prove to be false. After the closing of her school she discusses starting to attend school at Tisdale elementary. It was there at a very young age that she began witnessing discrimination in the form of racism of one of her best friends, Jayden, because she had darker skin than those around her. She goes on to say, “It was apparent to me even in my young age that no one wanted to be Jayden’s friend.” It is that awareness of her own surroundings that not only peeked my interest, but caused me to re-examine my own disrupted normative narrative and how it was perhaps clouding my opinion.
After reading Sara’s story I was given the opportunity to reflect on my own normative narrative and how it differed from the experiences of her story. I believe my own story may have been clouded, but that simply was my own experience and understanding. With that being said, I can see it is not the only experience out there. Not all kids are as innocent to their surroundings as I had perceived. Education about race seems to have started much earlier for many kids than it did for myself. Along with that I alluded in my own blog post that understanding, enlightenment, and a need for positive action would be the result of being taught about race. That there is no bias and there will continue not to be. This is contradicted when Sara retells how her mother responded when she asked why the other kids weren’t playing with Jayden; saying, “Some children grow up around the idea that “children of other skin colors (that aren’t the same as your own) aren’t their friends”.” I did not consider how some kids would be taught out of school by their own parents so early, and that said parents would reinforce their own intolerant views on their child. This would create an uneducated and bias ideology for the child about the race of others around them.
Earlier I had mentioned that perhaps my own experience was clouded. As I examined the blog posts of others it seemed as though my own normative narrative fell into the category of being the dominate one. Yet as I implied earlier, that does not make it the right one. I believe through re-reading, “Why it’s so hard to talk to white people about racism” by Robin DiAngelo, I was able to get insight into my flawed understanding. “We move through a wholly racialized world with an unracialized identity (e.g. white people can represent all of humanity, people of color can only represent their racial selves).” I believe that statement can relate to myself in the sense that looking at race at a young age, and perhaps even today, I was only thinking through my own perspective as a straight white male. I saw my own experience and how I was treated, to be that of the standard or normality. I didn’t stop and take time to consider that such a perspective would perhaps most likely vary if you asked fellow classmates who were of a different background. I was just a kid, but even as I write this now I see it is here where my unintentional “Racial Arrogance” can conceivably be seen as it again prevented me from grasping the perspectives of not just a few, but rather all of my fellow classmates at the time.
I don’t feel uncomfortable or angry with the comparison of the two normative narratives, but rather educated and thankful that I was able to gain a new understanding. However I was disheartened after reading Sara’s story in the sense of hearing how in certain situations kids can hold such bigoted bias towards their fellow classmates, and at such a young age. Yet it was that disheartening that stood out and caused me to truly question my own blog and normative narrative. There was no moment of willful ignorance in which I tried to hold on to my limited view and didn’t learn from this story. I learned from what I simply didn’t consider beforehand and now I am able to think in a less superficial way when talking about race. As a future teacher I think I need to take into consider situations similar to that of Jayden. It raises such questions as what can I do in terms of creating a less segregated classroom/school? How can I prevent bias views that can lead to seclusion of students? Does this mean proper/tolerant education on race needs to have a higher priority in the curriculum at a young age? The answer will not come overnight, however I can enhance my overall knowledge on the matter by taking action. Hopefully by asking the perspectives of credible people well versed in such topics, educated readings, and events/functions that help spread awareness, I will be a few steps closer to some answers.
DiAngelo, R. (2015) Whys It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism. HuffPost. Retrieved from