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ParentsCanada - April 2015

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24 .com A P R I L 2 0 1 5 Best-selling board game in the world? Monopoly. HOT TOPIC What's your experience with racism? WHAT YOU CAN DO AT SCHOOL Consider especially the amount of time youth spend in schools. "That's where the majority of students' ex- periences and identities are shaped," says Michael. Ideally, social justice awareness should be integrated into all levels of education. "Parents have an im- portant role to play. They could put pressure on the school board with a proposal on how education could be more realistic about racism," Michael says. Christabel's situation is a perfect case in point: teachers need to be trained how to handle racism with meaningful words and actions, not "she's just different." Rachel and Michael propose that there is a difference in celebrating diversity by honouring and valuing a faith or culture, versus simply appropriating holidays. If the latter is occurring in schools, we need to be aware that there is a high risk for misrepresentation, miscommunica- tion and therefore indirect racism. "Sometimes, to show honour and respect means to acknowledge that maybe I am not the best person to be teaching a particular topic," Rachel says. So parents can suggest that community members from diverse cultures and places be invited into the classroom to share their knowl- edge, or set up other events to give kids context and a friendly image of other cultural groups. WHAT TEACHERS CAN DO Getting information from one cultural group doesn't allow for dif- ferent perspectives. Rachel suggests encouraging your child's school to have many different voices, not just a white perspective, if that is the domi- nant culture at the school. "Kids usu- ally respect and enjoy guest speakers who share new information from a different perspective," Rachel says. A social worker in training, Mi- chael believes that Indigenous stud- ies provides a starting point to talk about racism since we live in Canada. What does it mean to be residents on land that was taken, what is that his- tory and how did we get to here? "It makes it very tangible and presents real lived experiences to help students comprehend the issues," Michael says. "When you acknowledge colonialism, you can also bring up neo-colonialism which is happening right now; and how we are still benefi ting today from that Want to learn more about how to end systemic racism? 15% of survey respondents were visible minorities. Of those, 58% have experienced racism. "I experienced racism all the time growing up. My earliest memory of racism was when I was fi ve. l went with my good friend to Sunday school. All the other kids said really hurtful things, racist name calling, and chanting racist songs against my Chinese culture. My friend threatened to beat up anyone who said anything negative to me. I feel like most of the racism I faced happened when I was a child. As I got a little older I learned to deal with it and defl ect." 36% say they have seen racism in their community: "I've seen clerks following people in stores, kicking people out of stores and stories on the local news." "I fi nd the way many people speak about indigenous people completely appalling." "Certain people act different to others and some parents do not want their children playing with their kids. It's terrible." How do you promote cultural acceptance of all races with your children? 55% attend cultural events outside their own 63% read books by authors or featuring characters from different background to your own 78% watch TV shows with positive images of different cultures For more about teaching kids diversity, go to past," Michael adds. Although we are making strides policy-wise with anti-racism training and numerous anti-racism toolkits are available for educators, it is still up to individual teachers whether or not they want to implement racism awareness in the classroom. Nassim Elbardouh is a Vancouver- based schoolteacher. She has taught Grades 3 through 10 and is currently teaching at a school where most of the kids are First Nation. They are all learning their own languages like Cree, Salish and Haida. "What I like to do in a classroom is to address anti-racism education through an intersectional frame- work," Nassim says. In contrast to a 'multi-cultural' framework where schools celebrate a few times a year (for example, Black History month), or have curriculum add-ons where diversity is a 'one off,' Nassim will ask the students, "What are the power structures that exist in our classroom?" She gets kids to think about what power and privileges they have. Guiding students, and expos- ing them to the different realities of how privilege operates and is rarely challenged helps them to better understand how systems of oppres- sion function to benefi t some, while disadvantaging others. "If we want to build more resilient communities, ultimately, we need to be talking about white privilege," Nassim says. TEACHING ACCOUNTABILITY Nassim notes that while there is a lot of talk about bullying, she's not a fan of the term. "I think it masks ho- mophobia, sexism, ableism, classism and racism," Nassim says. "As long as we don't name racism for what it is, we are going to keep experiencing it." Nassim tries shifting the culture in the classroom to one of collective accountability, implicating the entire group instead of one person. For example, changing "Hey did I just hear you saying this to Z?" to "Hey, is everybody comfortable with the way Z was just treated?" "Wouldn't it be cool if at a very early age it becomes a really valued tool to be someone who stands up for everyone and to not just witness when oppression happens?" she asks. "Ultimately it is a way of ad- dressing racism, how it exists in our society, and what are you going to do when you leave school so as not to contribute to it." WHAT YOU CAN DO AT HOME There are many ways to expose chil- dren to diverse cultures. Gary Pieters of Urban Alliance ( suggests attending cultural events, riding on public transit, talking to people, watching multi-cultural shows on TV, picking up papers that are in a different language to English. "Check out the school library. Does it have a good selection of books featuring children of different co- lours and backgrounds?" Gary asks. Selecting children's books where the main characters just happen to be Muslim, indigenous or black and where that is not the main story is a great way to normalize people of colour. "It is important that children are able to make meaning of their own lives through the material we expose them to and that those materials be refl ective of the country's diversity, but also the global diversity that they are living in," says Gary. "We cannot insulate them from reality." Nor should we. Take popular music. Gary points out it rarely ever looks like the mainstream: "Many kids listen to the type of music that is not what their parents listen to." Grownups have much to learn from children, because they have something to offer, says Gary. "Each of us has something to learn from each other but also something to share and to give to each other." Hamilton, Ont. writer Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko is a bi-racial mother of mixed-race teens. She is a frequent contributor to ParentsCanada. The Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre ( has developed Calgary Anti Racism Education (CARED), a resource that offers people "support in developing a critical understanding of the systemic nature of racism, its historical foundations, and current impact, particularly in terms of the formal education system."Linda McKay-Panos, Executive Director at ACLRC, says "We should be educating all Canadians about Canada's history, good and bad, with respect to racism and discrimination. We need to include education about systemic and institutionalized racism for educators, students and the public. Parents and educators need to address their own biases (which we all have). We have to learn continuously as this is an ongoing process and should, more than anything, set an example for our children through our continued learning." Shutterstock/ ©Gelpi JM

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