Chapter 14 of Waking Up White: and finding myself in the story of RACE by Debbie Irving
Think of a historical event in American history, perhaps the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the arrival of the Statue of Liberty, or any one of the wars Americans have fought. Where have you learned what you know about this event? Whose perspective did you learn? If you went in search of a fuller story, whose viewpoint would you seek?
Much of my American history came to me through novels, movies, and memoirs. Gone with the Wind informed my understanding of slavery, the Civil War, and reconstruction. The Little House (on the Prairie) (in the Big Woods) (etc.) taught me most of what I knew about settling the Midwest. The Singing Boones (a young adult novel) taught me about the California gold rush. The Disney classic Davy Crockett taught me about early settlers in Tennessee. (Again) Disney taught me about the American Revolution with Johnny Tremain. And even now, most of what I know about the Native Americans in New Mexico and Arizona comes from Tony Hillerman’s mystery novels about the Navaho tribal policemen, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn.
I realize that all of these works were written with the author’s own outlook, judgments, and prejudices, but the personal perspective of the characters in the books and movies gave me an appreciation of the facts and underlying mis-en-scene that I never would have gotten in history class. Understanding those perspectives made me more willing to hear “the rest of the story,” I think, when I arrived in the classroom. Sometimes the history books told the same story, and sometimes it was different. In any case, I’m very willing to believe the other side.
If you would like to join me as I blog about my experiences with race, please read the book. It was life changing for me.