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Stolen Storytelling

by Sydney Bernardo

Black, white, and red cluster of 8 images of Indigenous women.

Have you ever thought about how our world tells stories?

As time goes on, it seems easier and easier to notice that our world is made up of stories we tell ourselves. History is a great example of this. Fifty years ago, our narrative of the United States was quite a bit different. Many parts were left out. As more time passes, we strive to make our history, and our stories, more balanced — more true.

Here’s something that changed the way I think about our world’s stories.

I was lucky enough to sit in on a discussion led by Ron Jones of Dialogues On Diversity, hosted by Gonzaga University. He talked about bias, stereotypes, and culture. One of his points made me freeze and debate everything I had ever known:

If you are not the group in power, you do not have the power to control your own narrative.

If you’re a Black man living in the United States, you do not have the power to control your own narrative. It’s why when you search up “Jacob Blake,” the most popular search is “Jacob Blake criminal record”.

If you’re a woman living in the United States, you don’t have that power either. It’s why women are objectified and assaulted, yet blamed for the crimes committed against them.

If you have a disability, if you are a Person of Color, if you are transgender, if you are homeless if you are queer, if you are low-income, if you are an immigrant, if you are any kind of minority in our culture, your story is told for you. Once I started thinking about our world’s narratives like that, I couldn’t stop.

Let’s look at a lighter example: vegans. The stereotypes about vegans are endless. They’re seen as stuck-up, hippies, and highly likely to lecture you on why you should feel bad about what you eat. The thing is, at least in my experience, vegans aren’t really like that. Just like any group, some are stuck-up and some are laid-back. Some are hippies and some are corporate. Some WILL lecture you, but many would never. Since they are a minority in our culture, society tells their story for them. But just like any group, they are multi-faceted in more ways than we can think of.

We must remember this as business and community leaders. We may hold some form of power that can be shared. We may be able to give others back the right to their stories.

And keep an eye out for how other peoples’ stories are being told. What does it mean when immigrants are seen as aliens, or people with disabilities are seen as lazy? Is this how they would tell their story? Of course not! But our culture runs deep, and so do our stories.

What examples of stolen storytelling have you noticed?

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Lara Estaris

Lara Estaris

Second gen daughter of Filipino immigrants with an incredible case of imposter syndrome. Will most likely die trying to unwrap a Kit Kat while driving.

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