We Do Have The Right to Write

“Self-Deprication and self-doubt was my biggest concern. I had to overcome the feeling that I didn’t have the right to write. ” 

I recently attended a panel discussion on writing and publishing for social justice that featured different social justice educators and higher education administrators who had established themselves as published writers in a variety of contexts from academic texts, to personal storytelling, poetry, and more.

Each of the panelists; having experienced critically acclaimed success at points during their careers, thought back and revisited some of their earlier barriers. Although their paths were different, they were connected by the common bond of having had to combat impostor syndrome at different points in their journeys. They were united in that they each had experiences with overcoming self-doubt, rejecting negative self-talk, remembering that they had something to say, and that others would want to listen.

It’s also important to acknowledge that the panelists each had multiple marginalized identities. That further exacerbates the experience of impostor syndrome as folks with marginalized identities are often told in ways subtle and overt that their experiences, and at times their very lives don’t matter.

So when I heard a panelist share that they felt this sense of “who am I to say this?” or “no one’s going to think this is important” when it came to their writing, I understood, because I’ve felt those feelings at times myself.

I’ve come to believe that “truth” is often more a function of power than of factual reality.

People with marginalized identities, and multiple marginalized identities are taught in subtle and overt ways that they are inferior, and those messages are reinforced not because they are true, but because oppressive systems like white supremacy, heterosexism, cissexism, Ableism and others are deeply embedded in the building blocks of our society in ways that create structural disadvantages.

“Show a people as one thing, and only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become”

I’m reminded of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk about The Danger of A Single Story, and how it’s impossible to talk about single stories without talking about power, particularly who has the power to shape and spread the narrative.

“Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans and not with the arrival of the British and you have an entirely different story.”

I was grateful that they made their experiences accessible to myself and others in the room who have also experienced those feelings of self-doubt, but can’t always find the spaces and safety to acknowledge it, and the support and affirmation to be reminded that the negative narratives and the negative-self talk aren’t true.

We must trust our own voices, and remember that there is value in sharing our experiences. We do have the right to write.

Ubuntu,

From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones, MSW, LLMSW

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