Saturday, August 8, 2009
White girls running...
In my doctoral studies, we're wrestling with the interesting problem of how to be fair-minded critical thinkers. Many of us can argue a strong case about a subject on which we're knowledgeable or about which we're passionate, but to be fair minded means having the integrity not to skew the facts or give in to the temptation to select only the evidence that supports our own position. To be fair-minded also means I need to try to wear the shoes of those who offer differing views of the world from my own and to look at their ideas and data in disinterested (not to be confused with uninterested!) fashion.
This is easy to say and very difficult to do. Our perspectives are frequently so much a part of us that we don't see them. Let me offer a short story to illustrate my point.
Yesterday, I was driving in Dallas with my daughter Joy when she pointed out, "Oh look! A whole line of white girls in pony tails running!" She thought this sight was rather peculiar and funny. The world we live in is rich and diverse, and to see a group of only white girls who all looked the same was odd and somewhat amusing--they looked like a row of Barbie dolls bobbing up and down as they crossed the park.
For completeness, I should mention that Joy is a white girl who frequently wears a pony tail. What I pointed out to her was that seven years ago she would probably have said, "Oh look! A line of girls running!" The first seven years of her life were spent in a small village in Cumbria in the north of England. The population was entirely white--so white that it couldn't see the whiteness of itself.
This is parallel, to me, to those who tell me they don't have an accent or a cultural background. The truth is we all do, but when we live only with those who speak and behave like ourselves, we simply don't notice it.
Thinking with fair-mindedness, to me, begins with acknowledging my own blindness and struggling forward, hands held out, feeling for clues...