Being an American Culture minor, I’ve taken a handful of courses that center on discussions of race and ethnicity. I admit that there have been times I’ve avoided eye contact with discussion leaders in hopes of not being called on, and when I was, I’ve chosen my words carefully out of fear of unintentionally offending my peers. After all, I’m white and from a small community with little diversity. I’ve often wondered if my observations were worthy of contribution. I’ve since come to the conclusion that they are. Minority issues at the University of Michigan have been brought to the forefront and we cannot be afraid to talk about them.
To complete my minor requirements, I enrolled in a creative writing seminar that’s structured on intergroup dialogue and creative responses to writings related to race, gender, sex and class. It’s the first semester the seminar has been offered, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to enroll in a course that has challenged my perceptions.
One of our first reading assignments was a piece by Harryette Mullen titled, “Imagining the Unimagined Reader.” In the essay, Mullen explains how her work draws on language and culture to write beyond the social boundaries of her identity in hopes of reaching those like and unlike her.
I’ve always been drawn to writing and have admired those with the ability to eloquently and effectively share their words with others. I feel like I’ve become one of those writers and for that reason I will forever be thankful to The Michigan Daily. But I’m still new to writing for the public, and because of that, I’m still new to the appreciation of it. I now understand that there are stories that only one person can tell, and therefore any person can write with authority about their experiences and what they know.
Reading Mullen’s piece made me consider: who is my imagined reader? It’s something I’ve subconsciously reflected on while writing columns, but it wasn’t until reading Mullen’s piece that I really considered the idea.
We’re constantly confronted with reasons to separate from each other based upon race, gender, sexual identification, religion, class and any other difference that can be categorized. When we separate, we often stop listening. For example, when the #BBUM movement began to gain force, it seemed our campus community began to divide due to misinterpretation and misapprehension — it was the antithesis of what should have been happening.
We often forget our commonalities. We grow comfortable in our niche of people who are much like us. After reading Mullen’s essay, I decided to try to imagine my readers as part of the categories that I’m not. My imagined readers have a story I could never tell, and it’s important to listen to them. I’m lucky that my curriculum allows me to be exposed to these discussions regularly. I hope that the #BBUM movement has engendered dialogue concerning race and diversity in new venues, not only about the issues at hand, but about the differences and commonalities among us. Because at the end of the day, even though it may be cliché, we really are all in this together.
Sara Morosi can be reached at email@example.com.