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.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Becoming and Being an Ally of Aboriginal Education

On January 26, 2011 Dr. Verna St. Denis gave a powerful presentation for STARS drawing on her findings from a study conducted for the Canadian Teachers Federation called A Study of Aboriginal Teachers’ Professional Knowledge and Experience in Canadian Schools (2010). Her study was based on 59 interviews with Aboriginal (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) teachers from across Canada. The research focused on four themes: the teaching philosophies of Aboriginal teachers, integrating Aboriginal content and perspectives in the curriculum, racism in education, and allies in Aboriginal education. At this STARS presentation Dr. St. Denis highlighted her findings regarding the characteristics of Aboriginal education allies.

Dr. St. Denis began the presentation with a review of the Hawthorn Report, a historical document about the context of Aboriginal education in Canada (1967). After the review, Dr. St. Denis clearly demonstrated how many of the concerns of nearly 50 years ago remain concerns of Aboriginal teachers today. She also pointed out how this historical research blames Aboriginal parents and cultural differences for low student completion and academic achievement rates. This blame occurred in spite of the data that explicitly stated that Aboriginal children received poor quality education in racist environments.
Dr. St. Denis then talked about the need for Aboriginal education allies within schools. Although many of the teachers who were interviewed reported that non-Aboriginal allies are difficult to find, they also highlighted the characteristics of allies with whom they have worked. In general Aboriginal education allies were described as those who:
  • Think outside of the box
  • Care about and connect with Aboriginal students
  • Listen to Aboriginal teachers, parents and community members
  • Take the initiative to support Aboriginal education
  • Get to know Aboriginal people as people and recognize the humanity of Aboriginal peoples
  • Are positive and want to see Aboriginal students and education succeed
  • Have humility, are lifelong learners, and can admit when they make mistakes
  • Are passionate about Aboriginal culture
  • Collaborate and cooperate with Aboriginal peoples
  • Follow through on commitments
  • Recognize the historical and ongoing trauma and violence Aboriginal peoples experience as a result of colonialism, and work collaboratively against racism
  • Don’t quit when they feel overwhelmed, think they have all of the answers, become defensive when they are challenged or try to take the spotlight
Although there are many ways to be an ally, Dr. St. Denis stressed that being an ally is a life long learning process and that we should not expect perfection. The study also tells us that to be an ally, teachers do not need to know everything about First Nations, Métis and Inuit knowledge, history, culture and perspectives. Nor can the right lesson plans or teaching strategies make one an ally. Rather, being an ally is more about seeing, treating and knowing Aboriginal peoples as human beings. This includes listening, being modest, staying positive, being a life long learner and taking a stand against racism. The teachers also stated that everyone can be an ally of Aboriginal education, including Aboriginal teachers and communities.
STARS would like to thank Dr. St. Denis for sharing her valuable time and knowledge! We also want to thank the Aboriginal Education Research Centre for providing the refreshments at the event.

Environmental Racism and Justice

According to Teaching Tolerance: Environmental racism is a term that was coined by Rev. Benjamin Chavis, who conducted a study which found that communities of color are more likely to bear the brunt of environmental hazards than are white communities. That study found that these environmental disparities occurred because of lax enforcement of environmental rules and regulations, as well as the placement of landfills and dumps and the disposal of hazardous waste in minority neighborhoods. The problem is compounded by the fact that members of affected communities are seldom found on city councils, planning committees or regulatory boards.
Teaching Tolerance offers several Pre K - grade 12 US based lesson plans that can be used to initiate student studies on environmental racism in Canada.
Introducing Kids to the Idea of Environmental Racism (Pre K - grade 5): http://www.tolerance.org/activity/introducing-kids-idea-environmental-raci
Environmental Justice (grades 3 - 12): http://www.tolerance.org/activity/environmental-justice
Reporting on Environmental Racism (grades 9 - 12): http://www.tolerance.org/activity/reporting-environmental-racism
Environmental racism in Canada continues to displace and oppress First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples, as well as other racially oppressed communities. Leave a comment to share examples of environmental racism in Canada with your colleagues and visit the Indigenous Environmental Network (http://www.ienearth.org/).

1. Environmental justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.
2. Environmental justice demands that public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination or bias.
3. Environmental justice mandates the right to ethical, balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living things.
4. Environmental justice calls for universal protection from nuclear testing, extraction, production and disposal of toxic/hazardous wastes and poisons and nuclear testing that threaten the fundamental right to clean air, land, water, and food.
5. Environmental justice affirms the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental self-determination of all peoples.
6. Environmental justice demands the cessation of the production of all toxins, hazardous wastes, and radioactive materials, and that all past and current producers be held strictly accountable to the people for detoxification and the containment at the point of production.
7. Environmental justice demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.
8. Environmental justice affirms the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment, without being forced to choose between an unsafe livelihood and unemployment. It also affirms the right of those who work at home to be free from environmental hazards.
9. Environmental justice protects the right of victims of environmental injustice to receive full compensation and reparations for damages as well as quality health care.
10. Environmental justice considers governmental acts of environmental injustice a violation of international law, the Universal Declaration On Human Rights, and the United Nations Convention on Genocide.
11. Environmental justice must recognize a special legal and natural relationship of Native Peoples to the U.S. government through treaties, agreements, compacts, and covenants affirming sovereignty and self-determination.
(to read more see: http://www.ejrc.cau.edu/princej.html at the Environmental Justice Resource Centre http://www.ejrc.cau.edu/Welcome.html)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Canadian Race Relations Foundations: Unite against racism

It doesn't seem that the study guide and documentary are available for purchase yet (I couldn't find them on the CRRF website), but there are some interesting video clips on the website you may be able to use in the classroom...check out the CRRF website for other useful material while you visit.

Some background information about the project:

In November 1999, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation with its partners and sponsors, launched "See People for who they really are: Unite Against Racism," the largest anti-racism campaign of its kind in Canadian History. As part of its efforts to engage Canadians in a national dialogue about racism, the campaign featured the works of producer and directors from accross the country (Nova Scotia, Québec, Ontario, the First Nations, and British Columbia) interpreting a different aspect of racism as it affects Aboriginal Peoples and racialized minorities in Canada.

In 2009, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation partnered with Rogers OMNI Television to produce the public service announcements (PSAs)in eight additional languages.

Work continued to extend to the production of a 30 minute documentary titled Directors Speak directed by Rion Gonzales, produced by Gail Picco and co-ordinated by V-Tape Canada. The goal being a Study Guide that includes visual material the Campaign and the documentary.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Anti-Racism Resource Centre (Peterborough, Ont.)

The Anti-Racism Resource Centre, created by the Community and Race Relations Committee of Peterborough, offers a variety of excellent anti-racism lesson plans and resources for teachers. For example... (click on title)

Check out their website for much more information!! (http://www.anti-racism.ca/)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Using Comedy to Confront Racism: Video Resources

This post comes from a handout distributed by Sheelah McLean after her STARS presentation on January 27, 2010 called Using Comedy to Confront Racism. Sheelah continues to stress the importance of understanding how comedy can be used to disrupt racism or to (perhaps unknowingly) perpetuate and contribute to racism. There are sometimes no clear answers. Thank you for all of the excellent resources Sheelah!!
Those of us who want to engage in Anti-racist Anti-oppressive education should use any tool at our disposal to understand racism. The clips that are highlighted touch on some of the consequences of racial oppression for people of color. Each clip requires a lot of time to deconstruct and understand. The stereotypes that these comedians play on, work to question racist ideologies and our assumptions about what race means. These comedians use humor to validate a history of violent racial oppression that constructs people of color as violent and inferior, and privileges white people. While this humor can help us to acknowledge racism, it is also important for us to validate the pain and anger that rightfully exists among people who face systemic racial oppression. The clips can be used to open a space to talk about the reality of racism here in North America, but there is much more we must do to fight racism.
- Sheelah McLean
The scene from Smoke Signals on the bus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJUjwJfjd80&feature=related

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Racism in Sports

Racism pervades sports everywhere from logos to name-calling and derogatory slang.

What can one teacher or coach do? Greg Walsh pulled his Peterborough hockey team from a tournament.  

Here's a link to the story. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Be Prepared: How to have the 'that sounded racist' conversation

After holiday gatherings with friends and family, many of us are left wondering how to better respond to overt racism. Check out this advice from Jay Smooth's video blog ill Doctrine. Jay Smooth is the host of New York's longest running hip-hop radio show, WBAI's Underground Railroad.

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