Last week we had another seminar titled Confronting and Eliminating Racism. Something that really stuck with me was the idea of eliminating racism and it got me thinking….can we actually eliminate racism? Personally, I think that it would be almost impossible to completely eliminate racism. However, we can try disrupt it.
Racism, in my opinion, is a learned behaviour. Children learn how to treat others from their parents. They see how their parents treat people of other races, sexualities and religions and as they grow up, they inherit those biases. For example, if a particular child grows up hearing their parents or grandparents calling Indigenous people, Indians, they will also refer to Indigenous people as Indians. I have seen that in my own family. My grandparents call them Indians and in turn my parents call them Indians from time to time. As a result, my brother uses the word at times and I will admit that I have caught myself almost saying it as well.
However, as teachers we can disrupt this pattern. It is our job to teach our students the proper terms and if they use an improper term, it is up to us to use that as a teachable moment. If a child comes to school and starts using the word Indian for example, we cannot just brush it under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen. We can take it and explain where that term came from and explain that it is not okay to use it but we also need to give them alternatives to use instead of that word. So in the above case, we would tell them to use the word Indigenous, Aboriginal, and First Nations to name a few. If we as teachers can do this, we can disrupt the pattern of inherited racism and biases.
So do I still believe that we can actually eliminate racism? Well no…I still think it is impossible right now. However, with some effort and a lot of disruption, maybe someday.