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It’s a goal for all of us this year. We likely don’t see ourselves in these stories. We need to be more honest about that, and identify our own “missing bricks,” as Patel calls them, particularly as our community becomes more diverse.
Patel offers a great example from a discussion circle where two participants, one white, one black, shared childhood stories. “There were light bulbs going off on both sides,” she said. “One was saying, ‘Oh, you really do cross the street when you see me?’ and the other was saying, ‘There’s no reason for it. It was socialized into me.’ ”
Sometimes, those beliefs are socialized into our children, too. Photographer John Noltner spent the past two months at Shakopee High School, helping students create a one-act play around peace. One student was a girl from Saudi Arabia who wears a hijab, or head-covering.
Feeling anxious at school for real, she wrote fictionalized dialogue where a fellow student leans toward her and says, “tic, tic, boom.”
“She has really struggled after moving to Shakopee,” said Noltner, creator of a multimedia art project called apeaceofmymind.net. “She really felt that she was viewed as someone other than who she was.”
A similarly enlightening effort launches in mid-February when the St. Thomas youth journalism program, ThreeSixty Journalism, (www.threesixtyjournalism.org) presents a “microaggression” photo project with 20 Twin Cities teens holding up signs. The project is modeled after a successful project at Fordham, created by sophomore Kiyun Kim.
The term microaggression, coined in the 1970s, refers to off-handed comments not meant to hurt, which hurt plenty anyway.
“You don’t act like a normal black person.”
“What ARE you?”
“You don’t speak Spanish?”
“Sometimes, it’s the subtle things that happen every day,” Patel said. “It’s important for everyone to think about how they form their views on race. Once you notice the stereotype or bias or assumption, you might decide to dig a little deeper.
“That takes a lot of work,” she said, “but no one needs to do this alone.”
Follow Gail on Twitter: @grosenblum