Questioning My Performance Piece

Posted on February 11, 2020

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“How do you, as a White woman, feel about telling these stories [of BIPOC people]?” I was asked at my recent Norwest Gallery performance of “Seeing White at School.”

This is a great question, and I’m glad it was asked. Since then, I’ve given a great deal of thought to it. Here’s what I wish I would’ve said on the spot…

I feel:

  • humbled to have earned the trust of the participants,
  • honored that the participants, folks I respect and admire, entrust their stories to me,
  • grateful for the trust that’s been placed in me,
  • responsible to illuminate an issue that has been ignored for too long,
  • determined to maintain the integrity of the history that is being entrusted to me by leaving participants’ words unchanged,
  • protective of the history and the participants,
  • hopeful that White teachers, especially in Adrian, will be curious to know what these former students of the district think, since many of them are parents of current students, and
  • committed to giving the final say on what I share to the participants.

For me, entering into the space where former students confront their own painful histories with racism is sacred ground and requires a deep humility on my part as a researcher and storyteller.

I enter the space reverently as I would a sacred ceremony–with an open and compassionate heart, as one who has come to learn from a wise elder–because I have. My job, as I see it, is to share the stories with the audience without interfering. My job is to amplify the voices of community members through my performance. In short, I feel responsible to be an antiracist oral historian.

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Christopher Carter, All About Adrian (A3) Coalition member, and me, January 2020

I feel a profound sense of responsibility to respect and protect the participants and to tell their stories accurately. I share their stories from a place of hope, that by telling them, the participants and I can educate White teachers, to show them how racism infects the education system, as it infects the nation as a whole, and once able to see it, to join in the work to dismantle it–because it harms individuals, communities, and the nation as a whole…

because there is no such thing as “not racist.” There is “racist” OR “antiracist.”

“Every single individual has the power, as I talk about in How to be an Antiracist, to resist—to resist racist policy, racist policymakers. … I think that it’s absolutely critical for us to recognize that people have the power to resist.” Ibram X. Kendi