i) Noticing normative narratives
When looking at “I’m a Kindergarten Dropout” by Debra Pinkerton, “Self Story #3″ by Sean Harman, and “Two Odd-Balls” by Anthea Holczer these stories show, that the authors had friends from different races, when they were children. They do not see their friends by their skin colour, but see them as friends and accept them for who they are. In each story, the main character enjoys the company of their friend or friends and wants to be with them, their skin colour is irrelevant. As Pinkerton explains “Dave and I have a lot of fun together. When we go to the park, he pushes me on the swing and then I push him. We pick partners for games, he always picks me and I always pick him. And we always sit together for snack time.” Pinkerton enjoys spending time with Dave, and he likes to play with her. Harman’s description of his friends is interesting “apart from the few years of difference in age, we were almost exact replicas of one another”, for him the only difference is their age. They are boys who are all the same. They share a common passion: basketball. In Holczer’s story she is in a chemistry class and soon realizes her friend is smart. “Can we be lab partners for this class? I don’t have a clue what’s going on, and you seem to understand it so well.” It’s not until each author looks closely at their friends do they notice that they are different from them. Each story demonstrates that normative narrative of race hasn’t been shaped yet within their social setting. These stories have come from a time of innocence. As children, they are still exploring the world and haven’t encountered White privilege and problematic binary stories as the norm yet.
In both Pinkerton and Harman’s stories the normative narrative of activities are commonplace. Pinkerton shares and plays on the swing with Dave, she also eats snacks with her friend. Harmon plays basketball, and all three boys play and have fun with each other. In Holczer’s story she too share’s an activity, she’s late to her first chemistry class and befriends the only boy who is sitting on his own; Rodney shares his knowledge and understanding of what is going on in the class. What is re-centered unintentionally in each story is the fact that all the friends looked different, and had different colored skin. With each story once the main character realizes their friend was different their attitudes change too, ever so slightly.
ii) Creating counter-stories: Disrupting normative narratives
Julie Amos Newton’s story “Mirror, Mirror”, disrupts the normative narrative outlined in the above stories. She approaches the story as the person who is being judged by their skin colour. We see a very different world and perspective though her story, she shows how people make quick racial judgments, “It’s hot, hey? But you must be used to the heat where you are from”. White people make conclusions of race and ethnicity purely on skin colour which is a normative narrative. This normative narrative is prevalent in our White privilege society, which compares with the three stories above, (Harmon, “Self Story #3“, Holczer, “Two odd-balls“, Pinkerton, “I’m a kindergarten dropout”) where these authors did not address this issue.
Amos Newton’s story, gives a contradictory tone compared to the story of the three previous authors, who tried very hard not to cross the racist or biased line. They kept their stories controlled, and well defined within what society considers to be acceptable and polite. We need to understand as Sensory, & DiAngelo, explain, “that although you are in the same room, you are not having the same experience as others due to dynamics of inequitable power” (2012, p. 152). In all three stories, the main characters perceived that their friends had the same experiences as they did, but that is not the case. We do not know how the friends perceived the White children, and their unknown biases. However, Amos Newton, gives us an excellent example of how racial bias is hurtful and disturbing. “Is the profile of a Canadian a white individual? If so what are the implications for those who do not fit the profile?“She raises excellent questions. What does a Canadian look like? If you don’t fit the National normative narrative how will you fit into society? How will society treat you and your family?
Although this story seemed small and almost inconsequential at first, it made me realize how subtle racism is here in Canada, and the impact it has on non-White Canadians which is huge. According to St. Denis the, “Normative Canadian history produces Canada a nation that is “tolerant” and “innocent” (2011, p. 310) but Amos Newton’s story demonstrates that this is not true. The people of Canada have a White perspective, which is privileged and judge others though their own biases. These judgments have consequences on how people of colour are treated and how they feel within our Canadian society.
Sensoy, Ozlem. & DiAngelo Robin. (2012) “Is everyone really equal? An introduction to key concepts in social justice education”. (Editor: Banks, James, A.) Teachers College Press, New York.
St. Denis, V. (2011). Silencing Aboriginal curricular content and perspectives through multiculturalism: “There are other children here”. Review of education, pedagogy, and cultural studies, 33(4), 306-317.