“550: Three Miles”

“There’s a program that brings together kids from two schools. One school is public and in the country’s poorest congressional district. The other is private and costs $43,000/year. They are three miles apart. The hope is that kids connect, but some of the public school kids just can’t get over the divide. We hear what happens when you get to see the other side and it looks a lot better.”

This was so, so good. It told these stories through voices that are not commonly heard. And the way that it reaches its conclusions. I sort of don’t want to reflect on it here because I want everyone to experience that progression. Listen listen listen listen.

But — if you have already listened –

The thing about social belongingness is incredibly real; it takes so much effort to convince yourself that you belong when the evidence all opposes that presumption. It is an exhausting and daily thing to impose an explicit desire on an implicit emotional system.

And the teacher’s mis-remembrance of a happy ending is so telling of something I have been trying to tease apart. It’s sort of how America loves an underdog story (“As Allison puts it, “Although rooting for the underdog is pervasive, the effect is a mile wide and an inch deep.”), but what is the full humanity of the underdog and how do we relate to them when they fail?

And there is this narrative of the plucky-brown-person who pulls themself through adversity (gangs! poverty! abusive/missing parent(s)! no mention of systemic prejudices… or really, any prejudice if the narrative is after 1964) and sort of ‘prove’ that hard work can get anyone anywhere in America. It’s this hugely addicting narrative in our culture, and so it makes sense to me that someone would remember that narrative on top of what the actual reality of the situation was.

And it’s also the only narrative. Like, there isn’t a narrative about a group of people achieving because of communal effort (outside of sports or maybe being in a band — which is itself sort of a narrative trap), or because the privileged spaces they enter change to remove barriers to success. Asking for help isn’t in that narrative (unless it’s from, like, one White Savior). And that’s what actually needs to happen, but it feels like a failure to reach for it.

#narrative #narrative

Related: Reply All, a podcast on the internet + modern life, tells the story of racism on Yik Yak at Colgate University and the huge impact it had on students of color.

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