For those who grew up listening to the fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you’ll remember the story of a helpless little blonde girl in the forest, who happens to stumble upon a quaint little house. This little house had three bowls of porridge, three chairs, and three beds. Each chair and bed were different sizes ranging from small to large and the three bowls of porridge went from hot to cold. Goldilocks would partake in whichever of the items were “just right” for her. When she lays her little head down to nap, three brown bears (Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear) see their little home a wreck and a strange girl sleeping in Baby Bear’s bed. Goldilocks wakes up, sees the Bear family, is frightened, and flees.
What’s wrong with this story? Despite the fact that some random girl comes waltzing into another’s home without permission and makes herself at home, if you dig deeper into the story you’ll find very apparent racist undertones. As a collective in the workshop Storytelling Strategies for Dismantling Racism, Goldilocks is a symbol of white privilege and the entirety of the story is just a symbolic parallel of colonialism. Not only just that, but the group reflected on how Goldilocks, with her long flowing hair and fair skin, is another reinforcement of the standards of beauty that society has placed on women and girls who do not fit into the Goldilocks mold. It was also noted that through the entirety of the story, Goldilocks is the center—the protagonist—and the bears are only a fraction of the story despite the scene taking place within their home.
Toi Sing Woo, Natasha Marin, Bert Hopkins, and Fleur Larson, facilitators of “Storytelling Strategies for Dismantling Racism”, challenged attendees to reframe the mainstream narrative and strategically explore and dismantle problematic racial structures within organizations using your own personal narrative as a tool. What can we do as individuals to subversively change the systematic racist tendencies that go unnoticed in not just our organizations, but also our lives? How can we take these endearing fairy tales that we have all grown up with, and change the narrative? How can we tell stories that dismantle racism, regain our self-worth as individuals, and share our stories to help others strive to push forward through existing boundaries?
Here are four strategies to tell stories that dismantle racism:
- Reframe the narrative for anti-racist understandings and actions.
Ask yourself, who is it in the story that is being centered? Case and point, Goldilocks.
- Reassert community values to underscore collective liberation.
Just because Goldilocks is a little girl doesn’t give her the right to just take what she wants, when she wants. As a community, breaking and entering and thievery is frowned upon.
- Tell your story and celebrate your heroes.
Personally, Mama Bear is my hero because she had the restraint to not go crazy on this random girl who was breaking chairs and rifling through her house.
- Demonstrate both impact and accountability for racism in the story.
Quite simply, Goldilocks should be dragged back by her own mother by the ear and be forced to apologize to this delightful family of brown bears that she took advantage of.
Yes, Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a children’s bedtime story and it’s meant to be lighthearted and fun. However, anything can be interpreted in a different meaning, despite its original intentions (example: the Wall Street Bull). And if we’re going to be telling stories, why not tell them in a way that deconstructs the ideology that one race is better than the other. We should be bringing a sense of commonality in our stories, so that anyone may be able to relate. That’s the intent of storytelling afterall—cultivating empathy with another and having a willingness to connect.