Collaborating with our community partners on our current project, in line with the mission of the Crafting Democratic Futures grant, is an opportunity to share what we know about narrative identity, autobiographical memories, race-based traumatic stress, and community-based participatory research. Alternatively, we, and our students, could learn first-hand from New London community members what is needed to right historical wrongs and create equity for current and future generations.
Collecting racial narratives is a central element of this project, we are seeking to upend some of the traditional ways these narratives are collected and communicated. Specifically, we are working to empower both younger and older members of the New London community not only to tell their personal stories but to become skilled interviewers with the ability to gather stories of struggle and triumph against the legacy of racism. Further, we hope that these stories can contribute to more informed school curricula and reparative civic action.
For centuries, Black and White Americans, as well as other indigenous groups, have been living in the shadow of our country’s problematic history of slavery, racial segregation, and inequity. In an effort to educate and prepare our children, each generation passes along this burdensome tale of oppression, violence, and social inequality. Our collective narrative or story highlights the social positioning of both the oppressor and the oppressed, the overt and implicit biases that thread our culture and systems, and other subtexts of subjugation and white supremacy.
Although we cannot rewrite history, nor should we intend to, our present work posits that exploration and sharing of racial narratives may be central to individual and collective efforts to heal from racism and write the next chapter of our collective history.