Storytelling for Oppositionists and Others: A Plea for Narrative

This essay examines the use of stories in the struggle for racial reform. Part I shows how we construct social reality by devising and passing on stories – interpretive structures by which we impose order on experience and it on us. To illustrate how stories structure reality, I choose a single race-tinged event and tell it in the form of five stories or narratives. Each account is followed by analysis, showing what the story includes and leaves out and how it perpetuates one version of social reality rather than another. Part II deals with counterstories, competing versions that can be used to challenge a stock story and prepare the way for a new one. Section II.A lays out in greater detail the case for counter-storytelling by outgroups. Section II.B addresses the questions, Why should members of the dominant group listen to the stories told by outgroups? How can they – members of the ingroup – benefit?