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The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

Stevenson examines reactions to racial identity narratives

PHYSICAL+IMPACT.+Dr.+Howard+Stevenson+prompted+students+to+observe+their+physical+responses+to+telling+their+racial+stories+and+experiences.+He+also+presented+about+the+ways+racial+stress+and+trauma+impact+health+while+discussing+ways+to+treat+experiences+about+race.+%E2%80%9CThe+reality+is+experiences+of+rejection+...+overtax+our+ability+to+regulate+our+feelings%2C+our+bodies%2C+our+thoughts%2C+and+all+that+affects+our+voice%2C%E2%80%9D+Stevenson+said.
McKinley Garner
PHYSICAL IMPACT. Dr. Howard Stevenson prompted students to observe their physical responses to telling their racial stories and experiences. He also presented about the ways racial stress and trauma impact health while discussing ways to treat experiences about race. “The reality is experiences of rejection … overtax our ability to regulate our feelings, our bodies, our thoughts, and all that affects our voice,” Stevenson said.

“Everybody’s racial story is important and powerful,” clinical psychologist Howard Stevenson said during an assembly on Nov. 13.

Stevenson is a researcher with national acclaim for expertise in addressing and studying racial conflicts. His expertise in the subject landed him at the Upper School to provide some insight into the way that students view race.

At the beginning of the assembly, he mentioned the one caveat to everyone’s racial story being important and powerful “is that if we’re going to get to that importance with that power, we’re going to have to excavate our own narratives.” It is these narratives that allow people to better understand what any part of their identity means to themselves.

Experiences of rejection … overtax our ability to regulate our feelings, our bodies, our thoughts, and all that affects our voice.

— Howard Stevenson

Stevenson first discussed the concept of rejecting one’s racial identity, and where that fits in with the excavation of narrative. When discussing the rejection of one’s differences, he noted that “It’s important that you track what impact that has on your body.”

Stevenson added that “The reality is experiences of rejection … overtax our ability to regulate our feelings, our bodies, our thoughts, and all that affects our voice. These things affect us before, during, and after these challenges to our existence.”

To cope with these physical and emotional reactions, Stevenson stated that telling one’s own history is an important process of healing. He used the example of the continued generational trauma of slavery, claiming that it is essential to acknowledge its impacts in the telling, retelling, and understanding of one’s own story. Only then is it possible to better cope with the emotions surrounding it.

Stevenson generated dialogue around the concept of telling your story and noticing specific aspects of it by asking the audience to talk with someone sitting next to them and ask each other a question: “What interaction around a race or identity do you remember while growing up?”

After a few minutes of discussion between pairs he followed by asking, “How many of you noticed reactions in your body while you were talking?” This activity allowed students to practice many of the concepts discussed earlier in the talk about how to treat experiences around race.

One central point of the discussion was that this dialogue around race can be extended to any other social construct. In an interview after the talk, Stevenson mentioned that it was easier for younger kids to resonate with these topics when more types of identity were discussed.

Stevenson said that once kids begin “building [ideas] around [their] race or [their] gender or [their] ability … they have specific stories once you get them to the idea.”

Stevenson hopes his voice will spread around the country and across generations, helping create positive dialogue around race.

Stevenson was the second speaker in the series, “Building Healthy Multiracial Communities” introduced at the start of the year. Ali Michael spoke to the community Oct. 24.

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About the Contributor
McKinley Garner, A&E Editor, Service Journalism
My name is McKinley Garner (He/Him). I work as the Arts and Entertainment editor for The Rubicon. At school I am involved in a wide array of activities like Science Alliance, Ultimate Frisbee, and the Alpine ski team. I can be reached at [email protected].

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