University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
The Student Teachers Anti-Racism Society (STARS) promotes anti-racism education at the College of Education, University of Saskatchewan through the support of the College. We work collaboratively to understand, identify, and address individual and systemic racism and its interlocking forms of oppression based on gender, sexuality, ability, class, religion and other socially constructed categories. We believe that anti-racist and decolonizing education, when woven together, can create humanizing and emancipatory change for everyone.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Race: a social construction

As established in the previous post; race is a human creation that has no biological basis. Once we debunk the illusion of "race" we can begin to effectively deconstruct the historical white ideologies used to justify the dehumanization process of darker skinned people.

For example, Indigenous people on this continent were considered inferior to white Europeans who constructed them as animal-like using words such as "savage" or "wild." A sub-human description of Indigenous people justified the capture, killing and overtaking of indigenous people and lands for European economic gain.

An historical understanding of the emergence of race enables us to see how the pattern of using ideologies to construct darker skinned people as inferior continues today. The word "savage" continues to be used, along with others like "lazy" or "dirty" to maintain the well-established belief that Aboriginal people are "less-than" white people.

Here are some resources which can help deconstruct the myth of race and lead students to better understand race as something humans made up for financial and political gain. They may help students see racism as a very obscure construct.

1. PBS- Race: The power of an illusion
This is a fantastic interactive website that explores the construct of race. It takes visitors through a series of activities that challenge our notions of what race means. This would be a good place to do an online scavenger hunt or to just let students log on and learn. The site is designed to compliment the PBS video series "Race: the power of an illusion" however it can definitely stand alone. Be sure and check out the background information for a continued discussion regarding this topic.

Only a segment of one video could be found on YouTube:

2. A similar series, "Racism: A History" was produced by BBC and all 3 episodes can be found on YouTube. Here is a taste:

We have all inherited this history. Lets try to change it!

Monday, June 21, 2010

National Aboriginal Day - June 21

Today is the annual day that Canada celebrates “it’s” Aboriginal citizens. Across the country jovial festivals showcasing Inuit, Metis and First Nations food, costume and talent will be in abundance.

As a group working towards anti-racism we recognize the importance of valuing the uniqueness of all cultures, however, we also question why it is that certain days are set aside for the appreciation of “other” non-dominant cultures in this country. We find that the celebration of non-dominant cultures fails to equip citizens with the tools (awareness, knowledge) necessary to deconstruct the implications of colonialism and race-based social constructions that maintain unequal distributions of power in our society. Without an understanding that racism is a complex system comprised of power and privilege, multicultural celebrations will not address racial inequities in Canada. (For a more in depth critique of multiculturalism visit: http://briarpatchmagazine.com/the-myth-of-the-multicultural-patchwork/ )

To accompany or replace the celebration of Indigenous dining, dress and dance educators can use a more critical lens to examine how racism influenced (or continues to influence) the development of practices and policies during colonization with your students.

Resource Example 1- Residential Schools:

Shi-shi-etko and Shin Chi’s Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell are gentle storybooks about two young siblings who must attend residential school in the coming fall. (K-12)

My Name is Seepeetza by Shirley Sterling is a diary based on the authors memories of residential school. (5-12)

Web resource: http://www.wherearethechildren.ca/ is an interactive website designed for students to explore daily life at residential school and hear survivor stories.

Resource Example 2- Poem:

This poem is a great discussion starter for older grades. It covers a lot of historical and current Aboriginal/Canadian relations through colonization. There are a million ways you could go with this poem...
a) dissection and debunking the term “halfbreed” (mixed race does not exist)
b) unfair treatment of Métis because of race
c) policy in favor of settlers.

Letter to Sir John A. MacDonaldMarilyn Dumont

Dear John: I’m still here and halfbreed,
After all these years
You’re dead, funny thing,
That railway you wanted so badly,
There was talk a year ago
Of shutting it down
And part of it was shut down,
The dayliner at least,
‘from sea to shining sea,’
And you know, John,
After all that shuffling us around to suit the settlers,
We’re still here and Métis

We’re still here
After Meech Lake and
One no-good-for-nothin-Indian
And John, that goddamned railroad never made this a great nation,
Cause the railway shut down
And this country is still quarreling over unity,
And Riel is dead
but he just keeps coming back
in all the Bill Wilsons yet to speak out of turn or favour
because you know as well as I
that we were railroaded
by some steel tracks that didn’t last
and some settlers who wouldn’t settle
and its funny we’re still calling ourselves halfbreed.

We hope these resources will help you and your students to engage in a dialogue critical of racism today and everyday!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

SAFE - Social Justice and Anti-Racist Anti-Oppressive Forum on Education

SAFE (Social Justice and Anti-Racist Anti-Oppressive Forum on Education) is a STF Special Subject Council dedicated to centralizing anti-racist and anti-oppressive pedagogy in Saskatchewan schools.


The SAFE mission is as follows:
"It is our belief that oppressions such as racism, sexism, classism and homophobia continue to permeate our schools, as well as other institutions within the society. These are issues which greatly affect our teaching staff and our students within the system, yet because they are considered to be ‘controversial’ in nature, they are often ignored or silenced. The research study that I conducted for my thesis indicates that in the Saskatchewan context, teachers are ill equipped to deal with the many oppressions that our students face, and do not have the resources needed to respond to issues such as racism, which create institutional and systemic consequences (McLean, 2007). Our goal is to provide the ongoing knowledge, resources, workshops and conferences which will support teachers in their approach to Anti-Racist Anti-Oppressive theory and praxis. We want to create SAFE spaces to discuss these issues and maintain a dialogue that normalizes the work towards social justice in our schools."
-Sheelah McLean

SAFE welcomes all (including community members, pre-service teachers) who are interested in working against socially constructed oppressions.

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