Writing The Self Analysis: Normative Narratives

i) Normative narratives

I thought it was interesting that so many people, including myself, wrote about a story in which they were on a vacation or a trip somewhere. Karley wrote about a story where she was on a trip to Las Vegas and she saw some people who did not have a home, Tamantha wrote about a time in which she was in Berlin and saw some people who did not have a home, and I wrote about a story where I was in Hawaii and saw people who did not have a home. It seems that for many of us, we don’t see people who are homeless in our own town, even if it’s right in front of us. The times where we notice that there is a class difference is when we are brought out of familiar territory. I personally did not notice any class difference in my town until I went onto this trip. Karley, Tamantha, and I all realized on these trips that we don’t worry about where we are going to sleep that night and what we are going to eat. It was a wake-up call that shows how tough some people have it.

The normative narrative that seems to be apparent in all of our stories is that we kind of ignored class differences until we had no choice but to look at it. I don’t think we ignored them on purpose, but I think they just went right by us because we didn’t experience it. We were all on trips, a luxury, where sightseeing is one of the main things that you do, so when you are making a point to look around at everything, you begin to see everything.

It’s also such a common thing for people to feel guilty and try to ease that guilt. A normative narrative that often comes from things like seeing a class difference or seeing homeless is the expectation that someone better off will help. If everyone thinks that someone else will help then nobody will end up helping. It is a fairly common thing to brush off other people’s hardships because it does not directly affect you.

ii) Creating counter-stories: Disrupting normative narratives 

I could not find a story that disrupted the normative narratives above so I am going to use personal stories or examples. I don’t want to sound like a saint or boast or anything, but I disrupted one of the narratives In my own story. I remember that I gave the homeless man a bottle of water. It is not a massive deal, but I went out of my way to give that man a bottle of water rather than telling myself that someone else will help. I know that a lot of my classmates probably do charity or volunteer work, which disrupts that narrative as well. People who do charity or volunteer work are doing something to help those in need rather than hoping someone else does it.

Sensoy and DiAngelo’s Is Everyone Really Equal highlights many common phrases that those in the upper class say often say to feel better. “We live in a classless society where anyone can make it”(167), “Sports and sports scholarships offer minorities a way out”(168), and “people just need to work hard and not expect handouts”(171) are all examples of the types of problematic phrases that the book tackles head-on. All of those phrases are said with the “it’s not my problem” mindset. All of those common phrases also plant the idea that those experiencing poverty or homelessness are doing something wrong and that it is entirely their fault. This is obviously a very problematic mindset to have. We as a community need to ensure that the generations coming up are educated so that we can try to avoid classism in the future.

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