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My monologue about the ‘Monologues’

Edithstein Cho | Sunday, April 1, 2012

If you watched “Show Some Skin: The Race Monologues,” then you’ve been exposed to race issues. As the director of the production, let me stress this: exposure is different from education. The actors did not explicitly walk you through every monologue analyzing how race played a part in the writer’s life. There was no commentary on the bias intrinsic to each piece. Theories weren’t laid before you to help you understand the behavior of the anonymous writers. Statistics weren’t thrown at you to help you realize the trends in our society. “The Race Monologues” was just what it is called – monologues, nothing more.

For example, having heard a monologue from the Middle Easterner’s perspective does not mean we know how it feels to be Middle Eastern. We have been given a chance to peek into a window from the angle that the anonymous writer has allowed us to look into. We have heard from one person – this gives us no right to assume anyone else’s point of view. On top of this, we have heard from an interpreted version of a writing – who knows if the anonymous writer is upset about how the story was portrayed?

Yes, many people have been touched by the stories. And that’s great. The monologues were raw. Yet the stories were not about pointing fingers or venting. This caught even the audience by surprise. Most writers seemed to have written solely for the sake of sharing. The authors themselves seemed lost on what tone to adopt for telling the stories, how to put the events together, and what to think of their own stories. Many of them ended their stories with explicitly saying that they are confused or undecided.

Life is not clean cut for any of us. So why assume that the stories’ authors have it all figured out? The complexity reflected in the monologues is natural. As human beings, we hold onto tensions in our minds.

Many monologues had individuals justifying themselves as they portrayed contradicting aspects. One monologue talked of loving Notre Dame but hating the sometimes racially homophobic environment. One spoke of preferring a partner of the same ethnic background while still supporting interracial relationships. Another story illustrated how one can be anti-racist but not know how to act so. One monologue showcased how one defended oneself by targeting another group with the same prejudice. Holding such dual tensions is the messy reality. Talking about race is never black and white. Instead, race affects people in various ways like the different shades of grey.

Despite its complexity, storytelling brings out the beautiful aspect of humanness. There is no level in which we can measure the perfection or the validity of the story. There is no one to tell you that your understanding of an experience is right or wrong.

Especially for this production, both anonymous writers and actors had to take the leap of faith. If the courage embedded in such faith is not beautiful, I don’t know what else is. The anonymous writers had no clue what their stories were going to be transformed into or how they were going to be judged.

The actors simply stepped up to lend a voice to the unheard – they didn’t know which monologue they were to be assigned. While many actors were assigned to pieces they disagreed, disliked, or could not connect to, they amazingly convinced at least me that they were the anonymous writers themselves. This process showcased empathy in a different level. Moreover, the fact that many people have gathered as listeners illustrate human solidarity for me.

This cannot stop here. The storytelling must be continued. The fact that these are not representative should not undermine the value of the stories; the monologues should be taken as the vulnerable narratives that are finally being shared. However, the production “Show Some Skin” should not be understood as any form of education. The support that “Show Some Skin” received illustrates that our Notre Dame community wants to be educated. We need venues to educate the interested parties about anti-racism and help people understand the complexity of race. “Show Some Skin: The Race Monologues” was exposure. Now how are we, the Notre Dame family, going to educate ourselves?

Please contact Edith at [email protected] for any comments or interest in being involved with The Race Monologues.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.