Dr. Alex Wilson of the department of Educational Foundations, College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan reminds us that anti-racism education needs to include the commitment to understand, identify and work against all forms of oppression. Racism is interconnected with homophobia, sexism, classism and ablism in many different ways. In her STARS presentation last September (2010), Interconnecting Isms: Race, Gender and Homophobia in Education, Dr. Wilson explained how these interconnecting oppressions are acts of violence and are normalized in society. Using the comic book character Whiplash, she explained how this normalization of violence leads to ‘whiplash’ or a negative reaction to something positive such as opposition to anti-oppressive education. For example, because homophobia, heterosexism, and heteronormativity are systemic in society most of us don't recognize these systems of violence and oppression. Therefore, when they are brought to our attention we may become defensive and angry, blame the victims, minimize the violence or deny there is a problem. This reaction to something positive (i.e. standing up for human rights and equality) is what Dr. Wilson calls whiplash. It is a great analogy because, truly, it can feel like whiplash when experiencing this resistance to anti-racist and anti-oppressive education. Drawing from statistics, personal stories, news stories, and qualitative research she also explained how racism, sexism and homophobia impact youth in destructive ways that can, and do, lead to suicide. It was very powerful and emotional when we viewed pictures of young boys who had recently committed suicide and were told that, something is going on. Dr. Wilson shared links to: several diagrams that explain how violence is normalized through power and control.
These diagrams can help us to understand how racism, sexism and homophobia are systems of violence that work to normalize domination. To conclude, she shared examples of individuals who challenge interconnected forms of oppression in spite of the whiplash they experience and she asked the audience to volunteer personal stories of the ways that they work as allies in anti-oppressive education. Dr. Wilson’s final words emphasized that, according to research, the most preventative factor of youth suicide is a positive and meaningful relationship with at least one adult. The fact that so many youth who experience racism, homophobia and sexism do commit suicide alarms us to the fact that we are not doing enough to care for and value our children.
Thank you Dr. Wilson for your powerful messages. If you want to learn more about her work check out these links: http://iportal.usask.ca/index.php?t=display_solr_search&having=1096641&sid=271821201
- Student Teachers Anti-Racism Society
- 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.