Black Women Speak Back, Up, and Out
Chapter Ten: If You Listen, You Will Hear: Race, Place, Gender, and the Trauma of Witnessing Through Listening in Research Contexts
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Race, Place, Gender, and the Trauma of Witnessing Through Listening in Research Contexts
ROBERTA P. GARDNER
Sometimes in the context of conducting qualitative research, participants will share stories that researchers are not ready to hear—stories that open up wounds and cause us to remember things that we have purposefully learned to forget (Dillard, 2012). That’s what happened to me when I entered into the field to gather data for my research Reading Race in a Community Space (Gardner, 2013). My inquiry was focused on exploring how racialized epistemologies and lived experiences appeared to influence literacies and how literacies in turn shaped perceptions of race (Ladson-Billings, 2003). Using African American children’s literature as hermeneutic prompts, I facilitated focus groups with Black mothers and children who lived in a low-income apartment community in the South, and together we read race as a phenomenon of our lived experience. Although I foregrounded race as a primary text, I also recognized gender, class, and geographic location as mutually constitutive elements of our literacies (Street, 1993). As such, many of the embodied, racialized, gendered, and spatialized ontologies of my participants (as well as my own) were brought to bear. Essentially, through stories, my participants allowed me to witness their lives. However, in listening to their stories, I soon realized that I wasn’t prepared for the degree to which I would also have to be a witness to myself.
One day prior to one of our reading sessions, several women...
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