Classroom Tips – Week of Solidarity with Peoples Struggling against Racism and Racial Discrimination
Week of Solidarity with Peoples Struggling against Racism and Racial Discrimination
March 21 to March 27 is the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling Against Racism and Racial Discrimination. Declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979, March 21st is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which kicks off a week of action in support of addressing racism and supporting those who are facing and fighting against racism and racial discrimination.
An important starting point on this topic is to define and differentiate between racism and racial discrimination. Racism is a system of power that provides privilege (unearned advantages) to the dominant white racial group while oppressing people of colour. Racial discrimination is individual unfair treatment of a person or group of people on the basis of race. The notable difference here is that racism is a systemic oppression that only afflicts those who aren’t part of the dominant group whereas racial discrimination is an interpersonal treatment that can afflict anyone.
How relevant is this to us in the Canadian context? Do we have a racism problem? Here is a brief look at what some recent research tells us.
- Black students are almost twice as likely as their White peers to be suspended at least once during high school.
- 4% of Black students are identified as gifted, compared to 4% of their White counterparts.
- An average of 1,213 hate crime incidents reported per year over the last 10 years.
- An Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Global News found that 25 per cent of Canadians say they have experienced racism — up eight percentage points from 2005.
- The unemployment rate for Indigenous Canadians is more than twice the national average.
- The incarceration rate for Indigenous Canadians is 10 times the national average.
These stats are but a tiny slice of the larger picture and there is much work to do in our own communities to combat racism but how? A good place to begin is with understanding solidarity and the importance of solidarity work. Solidarity is an understanding, agreement and commitment to action in support of and with others struggling to overcome obstacles. Solidarity in this context means standing with and lending support to people who are struggling against systemic racism and individual racial discrimination. While many of your students will be eager to show solidarity it’s important to give them some basic understanding and tools that will ensure that they are engaging in a respectful and appropriate way. Here are some important points to share with students and colleagues.
To act in solidarity with others one must first consider the following:
- Listen to the voices of those impacted. They are the experts on what they are experiencing and what they need. Don’t make assumptions about what others may be feeling or wanting.
- Ask what you can do to support rather than assume.
- Recognize your own privilege and what advantages you have been given that others have been denied.
- Accept truths that you do not share or understand and never deny or question a person’s experience of oppression.
- Act with or follow the lead of those fighting but never take over. It’s important to allow those who are afflicted with racism to lead the charge and discussion.
This March ask students to think about how they have been or can start to act in solidarity with those who are struggling against racism and racial discrimination.
Black student achievement advisory committee results in TDSB. Reported by CBC in 2017. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-students-race-based-data-1.4278303(2017)
Canadian Race Relations Foundation, Government of Canada.