“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Telling Stories

I've been thinking about racism lately. Actually I think about it a lot, along with the other isms. I thought about isms when "So You Think You Can Dance" ended up with two women as finalists. That's a first for these reality television shows, and kind of cool! Made me wonder what's going on? Of course my next thought was, "the white woman will win." I'm convinced that racism and sexism are so pervasive, so unconscious, as a cultural norm, that our group "think" lives into acts of prejudice and then denies it because of how the game is played. As far as that television show, it may be that Melanie really was the better dancer, but as a dance major myself, I couldn't be certain of that.

More to the point I'm thinking of the book, "The Help" and the recently released movie version. I listened to the book on my iPod while driving from Arizona to Illinois in 2010. I wrote about it here. I'm thinking about the comments that the book reflects racist attitudes of "whites to the rescue" and " white people telling a black person's story." And, I suppose there is some truth to that. But, mostly I think white people are getting racism muddled with that line of thinking and as a result failing to see the story for what it is. For me it is a story about women, of different classes, facing similar cultural oppression, forced into narrow expectations for behavior, and devoiced. These women join together to tell their story, using the only means available, risking their safety and security. It is a story about strong women, survivors, who, in telling their stories, find their voices, and become even stronger, more authentic. It's as much about sexism as it is about racism, about the white woman finding her voice, too, not just using her privilege to tell the black woman's story. In that, finding of voice, all the women share something in common.

Which leads me to Michelle Bachman and her comment after winning the Iowa straw vote, about "taking BACK the White House." Is the White House not a government building, owned by the American people who though paying taxes, support that house? And who, by voting, the American people choose who resides there? So she plans to take it away from "us," those who elected a black man to lead us? If you want to talk about racism, let's start with the politics of our country, and the backlash that Obama faces every day. Let's not accept that ridiculous rhetoric and allow it to be the accepted story.

For more thoughts in this direction go here

And, for an interview with Viola Davis, who plays Abilene in the movie here
And here


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