Many stories matter.

Thinking about the stories that I studied in my schooling, I think of The Book of Negroes, The Great Gatsby, Romeo and Juliet, The Maze Runner, Othello, and I am Hutterite. I’m sure there were others but these are ones I remember. Why these stories? Because we were supposed to learn how to read Shakespeare and how to use comprehension skills while reading novels. I don’t remember talking much about the stories themselves, however.

What I did learn, is that everyone should study Shakespeare and other old white authors in their English classes. I enjoy Shakespeare so this didn’t seem problematic to me before but it is starting to become more apparent that through reading all of these “stale, pale, and male” authors we are quietly learning that their words are important and worth studying. Meanwhile, we avoid stories written by women and people of colour because we would rather focus on “the Greats”. But, who is to say some of these other authors are not also incredible as well and also worth studying?

What I find interesting is that we read stories about the underground railroad and yet missed stories told by our Indigenous peoples in Canada. What we learned about on the topic of treaties and Indigenous peoples was all about how terrible the residential schools were and this was about it. This didn’t include any of the success of Indigenous peoples, a problem Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie mentioned in her TED Talk. Without hearing the success stories and other personal stories about people who were not white and middle class, which is what made up most of my high school, we sometimes came to know one the single story of some of these other groups of people, causing us to develop stereotypes and prejudices about them.

To change these biases I learned while growing up I think the biggest step would be to look at sources that are produced from, for example, Indigenous perspectives that are also by Indigenous peoples. We should all have the right to tell our own story rather than having someone else tell that story for us.

 

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