What might you ‘take away’ from our discussions of Stuart Mclean’s “Emil” or “Safe Places,” Chamimanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story,” or Budge Wilson’s “The Metaphor” this week? How might you apply this ‘take away’ to your life or passions, learning you have done in other classes, or significant events or ideas taking place in the world as a whole?
A major theme I noticed throughout all of these short stories and speeches we read/listened to is that, when we push past stereotypes and value diversity that is when we can become an empathetic person. Empathy isn’t something we can acquire overnight. It takes a while for us to develop the skills needed to become a more empathetic person. Morley in Stuart Mclean’s “Emil” starts of, much like the rest of society, making inferences about Emil’s wants and fears. As she develops as a character I see that through giving herself another point of view, another side of the story, that she made false inferences. By the end of the story Morley, “spends another five dollars while she is grocery shopping. She buys a box of grape hyacinth bulbs and she plants them one night when Emil has left – thinking as she scrapes at the hard dirt in Emil’s box that they will come in the spring and surprise him,” (121). This shows that Morley has come to know Emil’s wants and fears and by doing so has created a more meaningful relationship than most of society is willing to create with a homeless person. As for Chimamanda’s speech, “The Danger of a Single story”, the name says it all. Single stories are in fact that, dangerous. They create a divide in our ability to empathize with others that are different than us, and they perpetuate stereotypes.
We can also learn from Budge Wilson’s “The Metaphor” that our actions, no matter how big or small, affect others more than we think. Although Charlotte should NOT be blaming herself for Miss Hancock’s actions. If Charlotte had tried to reconcile with Miss Hancock, or even just smiled at her, it could have had a big impact on Miss Hancock’s life.
By reading these stories I am becoming more aware of the single stories in my life and I have been able to learn from the characters, especially Charlotte’s, regrets. Even before reading this story I have always been a person who, when they walk down the street, they smile and say hello to the people they pass. Although I have been told that this potentially is putting myself in danger, I know that I always feel good when people who walk by me smile at me. From that personal experience I infer that others get the same feeling when they are acknowledged. Reading about Charlotte’s regrets, “Once, just once in this entire year, I could have smiled at her,” I receive the message that a smile does go further than one might think (231). By being able to decide what in my life is a single story, and finding ways to push past that, I hope to become a more empathic person.
What is the thesis of David Suzuki’s “Racism”? This letter could be a letter to you. What did you learn or ‘take away’ from his experiences? Do you appreciate his message? Why?
I believe through reading David Suzuki’s personal experiences I am more aware of how racial slurs and racism has affected people in the past, and is still affecting people today. Before reading this story, I knew that certain words are not okay to use because they may bring up traumatizing memories for people. However, I wasn’t really aware of the kind of racist acts that went on. While reading, I felt a bit of anger and frustration mixed with sadness and confusion, especially when I read the line, “So a nobleman would feel justified in considering all of his privileges a ‘birthright’, sanctioned not only by the law but also by biology. In the same way, the idea that a ‘woman’s place was in the home’ was defended as a reflection of biological difference,” (19). I think specifically this frustrated me because nobleman already had so many privileges that others didn’t, and with what people thought about heredity back then, now they were able to authorize their privileges too. What David Suzuki is trying to convey here is that, we are not born with hate, it is who we are influenced by when we are growing up that affects who we become. This is shown through him saying, “It’s funny how when we are kids, we don’t see the differences that adults do. We learn what to fear or hate from our parents or others around us,” (17). This is very similar to what Chimamanda said in her speech, “What this demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children.” This is such a significant idea because as people and story tellers we have the ability to influence a lot of people around us and we also have the ability to be influenced by others around us. We want to make sure that we are not perpetuating acts/ideas of racism, sexism, or other things that could potentially be harmful to others. I appreciate David Suzuki sharing his story because it has created an awareness of the very important and evident topic that is racism in our community.