Just typing the title of this post: storytelling and racism has me nervous. I don’t want to say something wrong, but this topic is coming up again and again in my work. It needs conversation and notice.
While important and helpful in fundraising – client stories must be examined for their perpetuation of showing people of color as “less than” or needing rescuing by me as a donor, or you, or your organization.
The danger we face in our storytelling is of appearing to “do good,” and then place ourselves in the role of hero and person of advantage “doing something” for someone who is disadvantaged and needing help.
It’s time for me to listen more carefully as I coach clients and write about storytelling.
In reading the book White Fragility (a must read for us all) by Dr. Robin DiAngelo, and listening to her speak recently — I find myself noticing more and more opportunities of my own perpetuation of unconscious bias and racism.
For a good place to help you start thinking about this topic watch this video of DiAngelo debunking the most common myths white people have about race.
As DiAngelo says in her book, “a critical component of cross-racial skill building is the ability to sit with the discomfort of being seen racially.”
I recognize that I do not know all the ways I am racist.
I am choosing, therefore, a journey of an upper middle-class white woman’s discomfort as I notice, uncover, discuss, and wrestle with my own racism. I’m going to do it wrong sometimes. And, if I want to make an authentic difference I have to be okay with my own discomfort and embarrassment when I do it wrong.
Today, I simply want to say, sharing client stories is and will always be a powerful way to put a face on your impact. And on your donors’ impact.
A powerful story should honor the courage, wisdom, and life-choices of your main character. Whether that’s a client, board member, volunteer, or yourself.
DiAngelo reminds us that “the default of the current system is the reproduction of racial inequality; our institutions were designed to reproduce racial inequality and they (and I) do so with efficiency.”
It will take one person at a time to cause the kind of wide-spread change needed to notice and challenge racial inequality.
I commit to the uncomfortable ride ahead as I notice my own patterns and unexamined assumptions. To help with this, I invite you to join me in curating a checklist to be used to help us be certain we’re focusing our storytelling on honoring and not rescuing.
What questions should be on our checklist? Please leave your ideas in the comments. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.