Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Far too often students who are from traditionally underserved communities feel powerless within the school system. Many times, the students insist that the teachers and principals do not listen to them. This informative article discusses how storytelling and counter storytelling can be an effective strategy to counteract racism, muted voices and white privilege as normalcy. The authors correctly identify the harmful effects of majoritarian story telling on students with color. The idea of storytelling and counter storytelling to counteract the effects of racism seems intriguing yet somewhat under developed in this article. A closer look at critical components of storytelling may have been more appropriate and concise.
Silence: The absence of sound, thought and feeling.
When it person is silenced it denies them basic human rights of expression. On a more complex level the ability to dialogue allows individuals to reason, to explain, to understand. Freire (1973) explains, “founding itself in love, humanity and faith, dialogue becomes a horizontal relationship of which mutual trust between the dialoguers is the logical consequence.” Silence or the act of being silenced could have the opposite effect on students of color and their white teachers, which would be a hostile oppressive relationship. The authors make a good claim that storytelling and counter storytelling could stymie traditional with male narratives which reinforce false and damaging stereotypes and prejudices, and can help give the students voices back to them.
“He who controls the language controls the masses.” Saul Alinsky
The white male narrative typically presents African American history as being incidental to European and American history. This narrative insinuates that African Americans have no authentic or valuable connection or contribution to humanity. This academic position brain washes and dehumanizes students. Solorzano & Yosso (2014) correctly identifies how majoritarian storytelling produce, reinforce and protect oppressive systems like white privilege, racism, sexism and classism.
Storytelling and Counter-storytelling could be an effective tool in giving students an academic space to discuss their needs, desires, experiences and aspirations. Storytelling could help students feel more validated and could help students become more self-aware. This exciting concept was somewhat deflated by the underdevelopment of the concept. The authors did not make clear the age or grade level that could utilize this strategy, nor if the stories would be developed by the student or if there are existing stories that resonate with the stud
ent that they could read aloud. Furthermore, are the stories read aloud? Many educators would be interested to know how storytelling and counter-storytelling could be adapted to an ELA unit. Storytelling and counter-storytelling seems to be a unique tool to help students and teachers unpack the some of the preconceived notions about culture and increase empathetic pedagogy.