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.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Anti-racist or colorblind? Learning about racism through songs

See EdChange's link to a list of Race and Racism Songs! Although some of the songs promote colorblindness rather than anti-racism (and most are not current), they can be used to teach students about the difference between claiming to be 'colourblind' and working against racism.

Lesson Ideas (Grade 5 - 12 with adaptations):
1. Teach students about the difference between anti-racism and claiming to be colourblind. Identify the limits and dangers of colourblind claims when working towards racial equity (i.e. (1) ignores the differences in power distributed according to race/skin colour (2) normalizes and makes racial inequality 'invisible' (3) without naming racism, inequalities are assumed to be a result of personal differences and/or deficiencies (4) can be used as an excuse to avoid examining personal beliefs about race (5) claiming not to see colour dismisses the historical and present experiences of racially privileged and oppressed people).
2. Review some of the song lyrics (or find the videos on YouTube) and ask students to identify which ones promote colourblindness and which ones promote anti-racism and explain why.
3. Students can then bring current songs (and music videos) into the classroom that they think challenge racism to share.
4. In small groups or as a class, students can review the lyrics of their selected songs and answer questions. Possible questions could include: What are the messages about race and racism? Do they challenge power inequities and racial stereotypes? Are the messages contradictory (i.e. seem to challenge racism but are sexist and homophobic)? Have the messages in songs about racism changed in the last few decades? Why or why not?

Below is a working explanation of 'colorblindness' from Teaching Tolerance:
To be "colorblind" implies the invisibility of race, something we all know to not be invisible. My experience of the world is informed by being white; other people experience and interact with me informed by my whiteness so, for me, colorblindness feels like an erasure. To be colorblind is to not see my family, where we come from, our history, and our ways of being. "Colorblind" avoids difference rather than recognizing and valuing it. I do not see how a white activist can be an ally from a position of colorblindness. I understand that many people use this term to challenge racial stereotyping, to not see people "as" their color and the associated racial stereotypes, but it functions as assimilation. If we become "colorblind," than to which worlds and ways of being are we being blinded? What are we not "seeing?" And in which "hue" will we be operating? (see link: Dianne Flinn, TeachingTolerance)

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