Narratives of Culture & Marginalization

At the end of the day, being a marginalized person means being forced into being a participant in a narrative without your consent or control. You weren’t asked if you wanted to be part of the story of black folk in America, or of neuroatypical narratives in the zeitgeist right now.
You weren’t asked if you wanted to be part of the history of women’s struggles (as a woman, even the choice to entirely reject feminism is still engagement with the narrative) or to be a little gay mote in the sweep of queer narrative to date.
We do the best we can. Some do better than others. Some stand high above the tidewater line of those narratives, while others are swept under before the know what is happening. But all marginalized folk are *part* of these narratives whether we want to be or not.
For the longest time, though, straight white cisgendered male able-bodied, neurotypical people have not had a default narrative. For some reason, it was given to each of them to make their own narratives for themselves.
But today, they’re getting a narrative, too. Those of us who have had marginalized narratives thrust upon us are looking outward as well, and saying that the thrust of our narratives has had to come from somewhere, and we’re all comparing notes and coming to come conclusions about where that’s come from.
Straight white dudes are *pissed* off these days, because they’re experiencing – in many ways for the first time – having a narrative pushed on them, and they don’t like it. Every single one of them is engaged with this narrative: striking out at those who are placing that narrative back in their laps, denying that they’re part of it, owning that narrative and trying to make it better.
Hell, some of them are even diving straight into it, embracing the role of subjugator and Otherer by taking that narrative to its fascist end-game; “If you say I’m these things, then watch me be those things to a degree you never anticipated” more and more of them seem to be saying.
But it’s a tipping point, no matter what else it is. Because we’re all part of a shared narrative now – even when those narratives are all still awful in their various ways, and there is still definitely inequality between them. And maybe we have been for a long time, and will continue to be for even longer yet.
These narratives, though. They’re stories that define us, in many ways. And we’ve got to keep examining these stories and freeing ourselves from these stories, and finding ways to stop telling them about other people.
Stories are powerful. Narratives are the engine on which the vehicle of culture depends for forward movement, for better or for worse. We need them, and if we have to rely on the creative of lazy, cruel stories to keep the momentum going, history has shown that we’ll do just that. We need to learn how to step back, to divorce ourselves from our cultural laziness, and take the time to lovingly craft healthy narratives for ourselves and everyone else, as a means of curing that tendency.
And we need to develop these narratives with intention instead of laziness, to create them using craft that helps us drive towards a better future, rather than to craft them with assumptions and prejudices and hand-waving generalizations. We have to be deliberate in our creation, to aim for empathy and community. We have to turn the rising tide that swamps everyone into the one that lifts everyone instead.
We’ll do that in a hundred different ways, but ultimately those ways will be in service to a narrative. And we’ve got to craft that narrative deliberately, with the brightest, shining-est parts of what make us human, rather than the impulses from which our selfish, reductive, bigoted urges are derived.

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