This second week, the theme is “Healing.”
Today’s topic is Levels of Racism: Structural Racism and the Need for New Narratives
Poet and novelist Ben Okri has written, “Beware of the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.” Systems scientist Sally J. Goerner has added, “The stories we tell ourselves about how the world works form our greatest survival tool.” Stories hold tremendous power in our world, work, and lives. Writer Chimamanda Adichie notes: “Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
At Food Solutions New England, in our narrative strategy and other capacity-building work, we have benefitted from the work of The Storytelling Project, which identifies different kinds of stories that have been told to advance or prevent justice: stock stories (maintain the unjust status quo), concealed stories (accounts of those who are marginalized and oppressed), resistance stories (stories of anti-racist struggles which also have lessons about resilience), and counter-stories (ways to interrupt the status quo and create transformational alternatives). For more about these different kinds of stories, see pages 7-9 of The Storytelling Curriculum.
02 ReflectReflect on the stories that circulate in your work, studies or community life related to food and food systems. Who and what do these stories promote and privilege? Are they advancing racial justice? Are they uplifting those who are marginalized? Are they inspiring new possibilities for racial equity and liberation?
- Bring this reflection exercise into your organization or community. Consider what you can learn from stock stories about how racism operates. How might you disrupt these stories? What can the concealed stories you identify teach about a fuller picture of “reality?” Identify what resistance stories can teach you about anti-racist perspectives and practices that can that can expand our vision of what is possible. And what are the counter-stories that emerge and how can they guide you?
- Add any stock, concealed, resistance and counter-stories to the lists in this Google doc. We will compile and share back with Challenge participants.
- Challenge/disrupt the perpetuation of stock stories around you. Hold them up for critique. Propose alternatives.
04 Digging Deeper, Time Permitting…
- Read this tip sheet on “Talking Coronavirus: Centering Language Around Inclusion, Empowerment and Justice.”
- For more on narrative strategy as relates to racial justice check out the rich resources at Race Equity Tools.
- For content creators, consider this short piece on adopting an equity lens in the development of blogs, podcasts, videos.
- Read this historical article on African Americans in Rhode Island who used food to achieve interdependence.
- Check out Beautiful Ventures, a social enterprise that is “cultivating the ecosystem for the next Harlem Renaissance.”
- Listen to some of these 12 short stories gathered from people across the state of Connecticut that touch on the topics of community, racism, justice, and education, and that were recorded in 2018 as part of an interactive mixed media exhibit called StoryScape.
- Read this short tip sheet on “10 Lessons for Talking About Racial Equity.”