Monday, August 15, 2011

Shirley Fletcher offers a Dance of Difference

You can tell that Shirley Anderson Fletcher is going to be very honest as she explores the nature of prejudice in The Dance of Difference, The New Frontier of Sexual Orientation when she starts the book with this story:

I have been concerned about the oppression of racism and sexism for most of my adult life.  However, I turned a blind eye to the oppression of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals until my fourteen-year-old son confronted me.  I was forty-one years old at the time.  He had overheard his dad and me laughing at a so-called 'gay joke.' He looked us in the eye and asked, "Would you really be laughing if there was someone gay in this room? Do you really think this is funny?"  He looked at us long and hard before striding out of the room.  I was mortified.

That was twenty-nine years ago.  We made a commitment then to monitor our own prejudices and biases regarding gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.  We've been intentional about building our awareness.  And the reality is we still have a long way to go.

Shirley then employs a model called "Dialogue with Difference" for exploring this prejudice by presenting a transcript of a discussion about sexual orientation with a gay African American colleague, the Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington.  That transcript comprises the middle section of the book, and it is revealing in many ways.  This particular technique is based on the societal construct of dominance and subordination, but it turns that relationship on its head by permitting the subordinated group member in the dialogue to have the opportunity and authority to decide the focus of the discussion.

I was skeptical about this type of presentation but found myself drawn into the discussion and learning a lot about the issue and, like Shirley, my own preconceptions and prejudices.

This is the first of a series of books on prejudice by Shirley, collectively entitled The Dance of Difference.  If you want a break from traditional fluffy summer beach reading, it is well worth your time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This book is beautifully written and provides a unique exploration of prejudices and biases related to sexual orientation. In addition to the interview which is the core of the book, the appendix offers helpful advice about how to confront situations of prejudice in everyday life. I found the book compelling, eye opening, and thought-provoking. This book helped me to question some of my own prejudices and biases and also challenged me to be more vocal in situations where I see oppression in my day-to-day life.