The Self in Relation to Others – Analysis of Self-Stories

i) Noticing normative narratives

Reading through my classmates stories and reflections, the two posts I was able to relate with were ‘Self Story #3’ by Hanna Macaulay and ‘Self Story #3- Preschool’ by Brooklynn Seck. Both stories, give a wonderful description of ‘race’, during their early years in elementary school. Prior to entering school, most children don’t acknowledge a difference in race and ethnicity. Hanna clearly states, ‘At five years old, I never wondered about my skin colour, the shape of my nose, lips, or eyes.  The idea that race and racism didn’t exist occurred to me until I reached elementary school, where I began to learn from experience’. Therefore, when a child first enters school, a normative narrative is a person’s first encounter of another’s physical characteristics. When I started elementary school in a city, was when I was first truly immersed in diversity, ethnicities and cultures, differing from my own. Furthermore, a person’s physical characteristics is a common normative we continue to observe the rest of our lives. Hanna’s descriptive writing identifies the normative narrative among Asian ethnicity, ‘We both had dark hair, dark eyes, pale yellow toned skin, and smaller eyes’.

As I read Brooklynn’s story, she also identifies ‘colour’, being a trait she observed during her early years. She expresses, ‘If I had to point out another fact, he was brown, like the color of chocolate milk. But he was not the only one. In fact, the more I looked around there were many people with different colors of skin than me’. During our early years, Hanna, Brooklynn and I were able to identify skin tone was different among our peers. Often, this normative narrative depicts, whether a person’s skin tone is either some shade of white or a shade of brown. However, Brooklynn also adds, ‘I could see the difference between all of us, but the color of our skin seemed to superficial with all the situations everyone else was in’. Brooklynn’s class consisted of diversity beyond skin colour.

ii) Creating counter-stories: Disrupting normative narratives

The normative narrative depicted above is ‘race’. Hanna, Brooklynn and I, were able to identify different physical attributes, such as the colour of skin, upon entering elementary school. As a young child I didn’t notice any racial differences because I lived in a small community. I attended pre-school where all the children’s ethnicity was First Nation and our physical traits were similar. Once I moved to the city, was when I first acknowledged I was different then other children in my class. At this age, children are beginning to realize differences in skin tone, hair colour, eye colour. However, I feel at this age, ‘race’ or ‘racism’ is not something children are born with, but something that is learned through normative narratives over a period of time. ‘The truth is that well before their teen years, the vast majority of children are well aware of prevailing biases, and most kids, of all racial stripes, have taken on a bunch of their own’.( Your 5-year-old is already racially biased.)

I choose Anila Kanwal’s story, to create a counter for disrupting normative narratives, on ‘race’. Anila’s story consisted of the present time, and the normative narratives of white privilege. Anila and her husband were treated unfairly from a woman whos job and responsibility was to assist, direct and welcome newcomers to Canada. Rather, than treat Anila and her husband with curtesy and respect, the lady was rude and ignorant. I am a First Nation person and my ancestors derive from what is now known as Canada. I’ve had similar situations where, I felt uncomfortable and insecure due to the colour of my skin and ethnicity. It is evident ‘white privilege’ exists not only in Canada, but across the globe. Peggy McIntosh points out, ‘As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage’. Normative narratives, consisting of ‘white privilege’, are not so easily recognizable, especially from a person who is white. Furthermore McIntosh suggests, ‘I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious’. Unfortunately, whether ‘white privilege’ is unrecognizable among those who benefit from it, ‘race’ and ‘racism’ are ubiquitous.

What i’m basically getting at is, children aren’t born racist and often white people don’t recognize the invisible backpack McIntosh discusses. At an early age, children will learn and be able to recognize everyone is different in many ways. For example, as stated above the colour of ones skin, hair, or eye colour. Children will continue to play and interact with each other on a daily basis, during school, sports or play time. I feel the outside world and media begins to play a key role in scaffolding a child’s perspective on things such as ‘race’. Moreover, it begins in our very own households and as parents, often our perspectives fall on to our children. Therefore, as role models to our children we need to acknowledge we all have our own biases. As, Your 5-year-old is already racially biased suggests, ‘Let your child see you face your own biases’ or ‘Develop racial cultural literacy by learning about and respecting others’. Perhaps, if the receptionist Anila and her husband encountered, was scaffolded and taught at early age, would the scenario been different. Canada’s normative narratives are not quite as innocent as they appear. However, I feel with proper education and awareness (such as what we learn in this class), we will be able to overcome barriers for building a brighter future…..