Rachel Hanson, 28, is a creative writer from Minnesota, USA.
“I started writing about five years ago as a way to process some trauma that I’ve been through and to just make sense of the world.
I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Gender Studies and I’m currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Public and Non-Profit Administration. Outside of my writing, I work in higher education, supporting students pursuing their nursing or dental hygiene degrees.
Finally, and to me most importantly, I have two wonderful little girls E (3 years old) and A (10 months old) and a fantastic and supportive husband who I interchangeably refer to as N or Nateanite.”
What is your artistic/creative background?
Mostly, I’ve just worked on my craft on my own. This has been really nice because I’m definitely one of those people who likes to figure things out “the hard way”. I did take a course during my undergraduate work on writing graphic novels and although I am not even remotely talented in visual arts that course has definitely influenced my writing style.
What motivated you to deal with your chosen submission subject?
My biggest motivation in writing about being an ally in the space between privilege and oppression is really based on my own experience, as well as an experience I had following the results of the 2016 Presidential Election in the United States. My soul, at its deepest level, yearns for peace. When I expressed this need on social media I was told by some that trying to create peace was just a silencing tactic used to mute the voices of the oppressed. As a cis-gendered white woman who has a lot of privilege behind her, I struggled with this because I want to be an effective ally for my friends who are marginalized. But I am also a survivor of partner violence and I often feel that my experience is marginalized and I appreciate my allies working toward the peace that can be enjoyed by all.
Does wanting peace make me a bad ally?
“It’s a silencing technique” they tell me
So I ponder – I am not a loud radical
I read – peace is not the absence of Tension
Peace is the presence of Justice
Dr. King said that
A just peace where my brothers and sisters
Have a place, and a voice, at the table
I have been hurt too
My allies can long for, and work toward, peace
True peace is not a silencing technique
Wanting true peace makes a true ally
What is your process when creating?
The first part of my process can take months, or even years, as I mull over what it is that I want to say and how I want to say it. Sometimes it takes the shape of a non-fiction essay. Sometimes, it is a fiction piece. Less often (although here this applies) I will write a poem.
Who are you influenced by within your artistic discipline?
As a creative writer, Marian Keyes has a lot of influence on me. She really is an exceptional writer and I relate to her books (yes, even the cake cookbook). As I write poetry, I think of people I grew up with who wrote poetry to process their teenage experience.
Who inspires you in general?
My husband and daughters really are inspirational to me. I know that sounds cliché, but it is very true. Especially my little girls who are so excited in learning about their world. Nateanite also inspires me in what an exceptional parent he is. Being a parent is rewarding, but it is also really hard work. In addition to my own little family, I find inspiration in those around me who work hard for justice in difficult circumstances.
What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for…?
I am very passionate about animal rights, preventing violence in its many forms, and ensuring everyone has access to quality education.
What do the statements “art saves lives” and “art creates change” mean to you?
I think that art saves us, and creates change, by encouraging us to look inward and then show the world (in one way or another) what is within ourselves. While we are not all the same, we all have something in common and when we’re vulnerable through our art we show what we have in common and we can latch on to that and create positive change.
Have your artistic and creative outlets saved your life in anyway and do you think your message within them could help create change in the world?
More than anything, creating art helps me to save my own sanity and to create (for myself) a world that is a little kinder and more understanding. It is my belief that if we all try to create these worlds for ourselves they’ll intersect and that will save more lives than any one person could save on their own.
What are your present and future goals for your art?
My goal, ultimately, is to just keep creating. If people like what I have to say I think that’s great. If they don’t, creating for myself is great too.
Have you experienced any form of discrimination; and if so what was it based on and how did you deal with this?
I find that the discrimination I experience most often in ageism (I look very young, so people often do not take me seriously). I think the best way to combat this is just to keep learning as much as I can and also look forward to the time when I do look the “right” age.
What are your opinions on what causes discrimination?
More than anything, I think that ignorance and fear are what cause discrimination.
What do you do to actively stand against discrimination and have you ever had to intervene as a witness to it?
I actively try to combat racism, mainly through my interactions with others by making them aware of how another person might have a different perspective on the same situation.
What are your opinions on labels and stereotypes?
In some ways, labels and stereotypes can be helpful. For example, my oldest daughter is three years old and I have begun to use the label “threenager” for her. This is just a little verbal hint to me that E is entering a stage of her life where her brain is going through some serious change and the person I have gotten to know may act in ways that are completely surprising to me. On the other side, this label (or others) can be harmful because there are people that don’t take teenagers, especially young women, seriously because they’re “imbalanced.” So a label or a stereotype can inform how you start to interact with someone and it can be a positive or a negative interaction.
What are your opinions on national identity and in your opinion does nationalism create or deter discrimination?
In my opinion, there is not a single thing wrong with having pride in your nation or your national heritage. The danger lies in people elevating their national heritage above the heritage of others, or of not recognising that those within the same country do not have the same heritage as you and it’s okay to have multiple identities within a nation.
What social privileges do you have? For example: are you white, able bodied/minded, a man, rich, heterosexual, thin… etc.
I am blessed with many social privileges, and I hope that my privilege can help me be an ally for those who are marginalised. I am white, cis-gendered, middle-class, “abled”, heterosexual, university educated, a mother, and so on.
What social privileges of others around you have you experienced and how did this privilege of others affect you?
As I work in higher education, many of the people I work with have doctoral level degrees. That privilege influences me in both positive and negative ways. I strongly benefit from those who have doctoral level degrees and believe that they can use their knowledge to lift others up. However, there are those who use that level of education as a bludgeoning tool (they want to keep you in your place).
How does social privilege affect our world in your opinion?
I am sorry to say that, for the most part, I think that social privilege makes our world a little poorer. There are those who, though self-enrichment is not their intent, are enriched because they use their privilege to bring others us. Although the intention is good, and I think people should continue to help one another, the playing field is still not even.
Do you feel social privilege should be taught at school and if so why and how young?
I think that social privilege is something we should be talking about in schools and other public spaces, and that it’s important to start talking about it young. Police brutality is the reality for many Black Americans and so parents have to talk to their children about how to have a peaceful interaction with the people from a very young age. If my friend, who is black, has to talk to her little girl about how to be “nice” to the police when she is a toddler then I should be talking to my daughters about that too.
What are your opinions on political powers and world leaders using stigmatisation against certain groups to further their own agendas, such as with Muslims, Black people, LGBTQ individuals, mentally ill and disabled people?
How are the actions that some of our world leaders taking even conscionable? This may be simplistic thinking on my part, but if you are in a position of power and you’re not using to raise everyone up you are one of the “bad guys.”
Do you support or take part in any anti-stigma organisations or charities and if so which ones and why?
I do not. I am very much at a point in my life where I strive to lead by example, rather than being involved with any specific organisation.
In your own words please tell us how you feel the arts and creativity can further help to empower, communicate and educate people with regards to discrimination, privilege and stigmatisation?
I think that making art to create your own safe space is like a form of servant leadership. If you create a safe world for yourself, others will be empowered to do the same and we’ll be able to see each other for the vulnerable people we really are.
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