Indigenous scholar Eve Tuck wrote a paradigm-shattering call to action in “Suspending Damage,” where she argued that scholars in the Social Sciences (this includes historians) had a tendency to write about the history of marginalized, oppressed, and discriminated peoples often only in context of the discrimination and oppression they encountered. By extension, I would argue that history courses often engage in damage-centered instruction where the histories of marginalized peoples are often taught only in terms of marginalization and discrimination
For example, you have likely had history classes before where African-Americans only came into view during slavery, in World History courses you likely saw the histories of world cultures mostly in context of when they came into contact with Europeans, and you likely have encountered histories where women only come into view when they encountered, sexism, misogyny, and gender inequality. Similarly, we often only see the history of indigenous peoples in context of conquest and subjugation. Indeed, to some extent, these histories are necessary—students need to learn of the pernicious history of white supremacy, colonization, discrimination, oppression, and inequality. But also, as you saw from “The Danger of a Single Story,” if this is the only story we tell about these peoples then they are solely portrayed only in context of discrimination in oppression. Which leads to the question I bring to you.
In a response that is at least 250 words and that pulls from the “Danger of a Single Story,” as well as your own lived experience, knowledge of history, or exposure to other history courses answer the question below:
What happens when we only teach the history of people in context of their discrimination and oppression? What is the impact of that “single story?” Also, how might that single-story impact a student of history who might come from that same background, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, immigrant status, or class?
And while all classes must teach damage (eg: the history of repression, discrimination, white supremacy, colonization, slavery, inequality, etc), how do we make sure this isn’t the only historical narrative or “single-story” that is told and how do we accomplish that?