Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Part 1: Telling The Hard Story: What Is It?

Part 1: Telling The Hard Story: What Is It?

Part 2: Picking the Hard Story: Why Are You Telling It? 

Part 3: Crafting Intentions into the Hard Story: No Pity Parties Allowed!

The Hard Story: (n) Any story that touches on subjects or themes that are considered socially sensitive, politically divisive, religiously difficult, or fraught with discomfort.

I decided to blog about my experience with a story that I have been workshopping for about two years. My plan was to describe it and then make some comments and post, but as I got into the writing I realized that to really work it, I would need to either write a ridiculously long blog post, or do it in parts.

I don't know how many parts I will end up with at the end. Maybe only three...if I'm lucky.

I am spending the week in beautiful Little Switzerland, NC at the Wildacres Retreat.

I am enjoying a week of relaxation, enjoyment, writing, reflecting, and working with some wonderful storytellers on various pieces. It is lovely to spend a week wallowing in story with other people who live with this art form.

Last night I shared one of the pieces I have been working over the course of the last couple of years. It is called Election Night, and it is about some of the situations in which I found myself after President Obama was elected in our "post racial" world.

It starts with an experience in the week leading up to the election through four very difficult situations in which I found myself over the course of those eight years.

I deal with the following subjects:

A Break From Life At Wildacres
Domestic Terrorism: I was in a community where someone was burning crosses on the lawns of black residents in a small town right before election day.

Racism masquerading as "allowable political speech" - After the second election I was in a community where people were "lynching" chairs in the trees after Clint Eastwood spoke to an empty chair at Mitt Romney's convention pretending President Obama was sitting in it.

Absent Minded Racism: I was in a number of situations where someone made a truly heinous comment without realizing they'd just made a derogatory statement about black people in general...of course they didn't mean Me....

Stereotyping: I had to confront my own bias after spending a week with a family after being told that the husband of my host was a Tea Party Patriot.

Othering: What is it to feel like to feel like you don't belong ?
Writing in beautiful surroundings

Structural Racism: When the narratives we have about racism prevent us from seeing it

Mostly, however, the story is about the stories we tell ourselves about who we are as Americans.

Last night I shared an abridged version of this story with my retreat group. It sparked a great deal of discussion. One of the participants said that my willingness to tell the story was "brave".

I had no way to respond to that last night. I've been cogitating about it all morning.

I didn't vocalize it, but I disagreed with her. People tell stories about things that happen to them all of the time. That's the whole point of personal narrative. Why is my telling this brave?

Perhaps I am brave because there will be blowback from telling this tale and facing it will take bravery.

No, probably not.

I've been talking about race in America all of my life...not by choice. If you are a person of color, you have no choice because people are always starting conversations with -

"Can I ask you a personal question?"

There is no telling where that question is heading, but my response to it is, "Sure, you can always ask."

Wildacres Retreat
The truth, however, is that I have tended to shy away from these types of stories since I make a living working in schools, and I am not looking to have people consider me a "political" storyteller.

I am also not someone who does a great deal of personal telling.

Perhaps I'm brave to put my foot into this hornet's nest?

We'll have to see.

As I sat down to try to explain why I am working on this story and what I hope to accomplish by telling it I realized I needed more space to discuss this.

So, over the next few weeks I will be going into my motivation, my hopes, and why I am sharing this tale.

Some things I want to say up front...

I am not a crusader. I am not advocating everybody in the world tell The Hard Story.
I am not suggesting you use an audience for therapy or sympathy.
I am not suggesting that every hard story is palatable for every audience.

Every Now And Then You Need Some Mountain

I will however, discuss Election Night, the structure of the tale, why I made the decisions I made in presenting it, how I chose the language, and what I am hoping to achieve.

This is going to be an interesting ride.

Happy Cogitating!

1 comment:

  1. As my Grandpa Nat used to say "Hard to hate someone whose story you know." That does not mean it is easy to tell or listen but I do believe it is important. If you need a seatbelt or at least something to grab onto here is a hand!