Anti-racist Education: A Career in Social
and Political Change

by Beryl Tsang

Racism is part of an overall system of class which generates, maintains, and protects the power and the privileges of a small minority.

I like to view anti-racist educators as catalysts for social and political change. While it may be a bit of a cliche to say so, our job is to transform people's thoughts and actions.

Although I have tried on many occasions to describe what anti-racist educators do, I have realized that there is no one way to illustrate our work. How anti-racist educators go about fulfilling the task of teaching people to recognize and eliminate racism differs. Each anti-racist educator has his/her unique approach but most of us use methodologies that challenge people's existing notions of race, educate them about how these personal notions of race inform the creation of racist structures, and offer them workable solutions to transform racist notions and Structures into non-racist ones.

Anti-racism is not a new concept. It has roots in the British Labour and the American Civil Rights movements. Over the last decade anti-racism has been slowly gaining public prominence in Canada as racial tensions in this country reach new heights. While some point to increasing immigration from non-European nations as a cause of this tension, history reveals that Canadian society is inherently racist.

Racist elements in Canada's past include the establishment of residential schools for Aboriginal-Canadians and separate schools for Afro-Canadians; the passage of the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act and the exclusion of Jewish immigrants in the 1930s; and openly bigoted acts such as the internment of Ukrainian-Canadians during World War I and Japanese and Italian-Canadians during World War II.

Anti-racist educators help groups who want to deal with their racism do so in an effective manner. We facilitate processes through which individuals and organizations learn to recognize the roots and the different forms of racism and we teach them practical ways of eliminating it.

Since racism is so pervasive it is not only necessary to educate white Canadian society about it but to assist ethno and racial specific groups to fight discrimination and bias. Anti-racist educators provide this assistance. We validate the experience these people have with racism. We support their various initiatives in combating it and we attempt to give visible minorities a sense of ethnic and racial pride.

Éducation anti-raciste
par Beryl Tsang

Les spécialistes en éducation de l'anti-racisme servent de catalyseurs aux changements sociaux et politiques. Nous remettons en question les idées que les gens ont sur les races et offrons des solutions pour que des concepts et structures racistes soient abolis au profit de concepts et des structures non racistes.

Trois défis se posent à nous lorsque nous côtoyons des groupes féministes se composant de blanches. Le premier: faire admettre a ces groupes que le mouvement féministe, comme le reste de la société, est intrinsèquement raciste. La plupart des blanches font des suppositions sur les femmes non blanches qui ne se fondent pas sur le dialogue mais sur leurs propres perceptions. Le deuxième: convaincre les blanches qu'il n'existe pas un seul féminisme, mais plusieurs. En matière d'égalité, les femmes de couleur n'aborderont peut~être pas les mêmes questions que les blanches, et celles-ci doivent savoir que c'est très bien ainsi. Le troisième: faire en sorte que le processus visant à se défaire de tout racisme est permanent. Si les blanches se heurtent tous les jours au sexisme et à des moeurs patriarcales, les femmes non blanches, elles, font face au racisme. Il faudra des années et des années pour que ces forces soient abolies dans notre société.

J'entends constamment que le racisme n'existe pas. Mais, je me rends pourtant compte au fut et à mesure que je progresse professionnellement que je sers vraiment à quelque chose.

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