Who Tells the Narrative?

Word on keyboard

There is a great deal of pain in our world at the moment, and that pain is particularly acute for those who recognize themselves, their families, and their friends in the news of this week’s violence.

Philando Castile
Charleena Lyles
Nabra Hassanen
Hundreds of Iraqi immigrants in Detroit, facing deportation
The BlackPride4
Red Fawn and the Water Protectors
Residents of Grenfell
Families of the Charleston 9
Shooting victims in San Francisco

In the wake of so many killings, losses, and forms imprisonment, I find myself wondering, who is telling the narrative? Do the survivors and their families have the primary vantage point and platform to share their own pain, or do privileged individuals and systems position themselves to tell those stories? How do privileged people and systems tap into old tropes to curb accountability or deflect the possibility for large-scale changes? What kinds of labels and projections go unquestioned in their narratives?

“She had a mental illness.”
“Muslims are terrorists.”
“He feared for his life.”
“They are illegals.”

Every notice who is telling these narratives? They are rarely the people most vulnerable and susceptible to harm. They are almost always the people with more power — the very people who have a vested interest in staying precisely in that position.

When we see violence, discrimination, and harm taking place, we should listen to the voices most painfully acquainted with those realities.

Renee Roederer


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