Course:SSED317/Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism

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Racism: Background Knowledge


How do we define it?

Race can be narrowed down to two concepts:

  1. Race is an old theory of biology that attempts to classify humans based on physical characteristics. With a contemporary understanding of DNA, we now know that people are genetically very similar. So why talk about race if it is based on false, outdated, science? In the first week we read an article by Orlowaski, in which he mentions that it is problematic that the word race was removed from revised Social Studies IRP's and replaced by the word ethnicity. This is a problem because of the second thing that race is
  2. Race is a social construct, it is fluid and flexible. It can change depending on time and place and how people self identify and how other perceive them. Contemporary race is based on perceptions and self identification.

It is the racist that creates his inferior...It is the anti-Semite who makes the Jew - Frantz Fanon

Racism is discrimination based on racial categorization. It is the belief that certain races are better or worse then others. It can range from derogatory labeling of people to violent hate crimes such as the more recent cases in Canada of vandalism in Synagogues in Montreal.

According to the United Nations "the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, decent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life." International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Race or Ethnicity?

What is the difference between race and ethnicity? Here are some ideas

In Paul Orlowski's article, The Revised Social Studies Curriculum in British Columbia: Problems and Oversights (2001), he speaks to the problems of leaving out race entirely and hardly mentioning ethnicity in the new Social Studies IRP's. The textbook, for example, portrays immigrants as coming to Canada very poor and working hard to make money. There is no mention of the racism and discrimination that immigrants, Aboriginal people and others in Canadian society are subjected to. Without race and only a bit of ethnicity, students will have a shallow understanding of major issues in historical and contemporary Canada. Race and ethnicity and cannot be left out, as the notions of supremacy and discrimination they cause are prevalent in Canadian society.

The following is an interview conducted with Gay McDougall, The United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues. The entire interview can be found in the Asian Human Rights Defender, March 2008.

Has "ethnicity" become the new "race"? How do these two theories interact and inform your work?

Ethnicity has always been covered by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Article 1 of ICERD explicitly refers to discrimination on the basis of "race, colour, descent, ethnic or national origin." While discrimination on each of those bases has different elements, the similarities are more striking and potent. I treat them as largely synonymous.

Rich Gibson offers another perspective on race and ethnicity in the article Gibson, R. (2006). Against racism and irrationalism: Toward an integrated movement of class struggle in schools and out. In E. W. Ross (Ed.), Race, ethnicity, and education: Racism and antiracism in education (pp. 43-85). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Ethnicity is a similar but not equivalent idea. Ethnicity also confuses matters of likeness and difference and sometimes tracks inheritance (through blood or property), but the borders or ethnicity can take many forms, such as geography, language, culture, and so forth, in each instance claiming commonality along any line but class. No one thinks of the working class as an ethnic group - even though, for example, a teacher in the United States and a teacher in the United Kingdom have more in common with each other then they do George Bush or Tony Blair. The mythology of ethnicity is sufficiently close to the lore of racism that, for the sake of brevity, I only address the latter.

In short, ethnicity is more based on tangible elements such as language, dress, class and religion. Race while draws on ethnic identities, is much more based on perceptions and identifications, it about what is supposedly engrained in different groups of humans. Ethnicity – “you are dressed differently” Race – “you are different”

Is there in truth any difference between one racism and another? Do not all of them show the same collapse, the same bankruptcy of man? - Frantz Fanon


Intersectionaliy is an idea that requires transphenominal thinking so get ready! In thinking about racism it important to consider the other, overlapping and interconnected factors that lead to discrimination. Different factors lead to different people experiencing discrimination differently. Lets look at this map of your town. 2inter.jpg

Think about what it is like to live on LGBT road for example what kinds of discrimination would you face? Now, what if you live on the corner of LGBT Road and Female Ave? What does the Poverty Super Highway do to Refugee Ave or Religious Ave? When thinking about discrimination, it is important to consider the many factors that contribute to it.

History of Racism in Canada

A power point presentation with this points can be requested.

  • British North America Act (1867)
    • The British North America Act recognized certain rights for religious groups and for linguistic groups, but nothing for equality of gender, race or colour.
  • The Indian Act (1876)
    • The Indian Act was a series of racist social control laws enacted by the Federal government of Canada to place Aboriginal Peoples of Canada in the position of a colonized people.
    • The Indian Act regulated and controlled virtually every aspect of Native life, including Sundance and Potlatch gatherings, which were the major social, economic and political institutions of the First Nations tribes.
    • It wasn’t until 1951 that Parliament repealed the laws prohibiting potlatch.
    • Defined an individual as follows: "A person means an individual other than an Indian."
  • Chinese Head Tax
Chinese Head Tax
    • 17,000 Chinese workers came to Canada to build the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Rockies to the Pacific ocean, 1,500 of which died in the process.
    • Chinese who wanted to immigrate to Canada were forced to pay a head tax of $50 in 1885 after the completion of the CPR. From 1886 to 1894, 12,197 Chinese people immigrated to Canada and paid the tax.
    • In 1901, responding to public pressure about a continuing influx of Chinese, Ottawa doubled the head tax to $100.
    • The head tax was then increased to $500 in 1903, which was approximately the same as two years wages.
    • From 1886 to 1923, more than $22 million was collected in head tax payments.
  • Anti-Asian Riot in Vancouver (1907)
    • September 8th, 1907 – The Vancouver Trades and Labour Council formed the Asiatic Exclusion League, which organized a giant anti-immigration rally at city hall to protest against giving jobs to Asian immigrants.
    • After anti-Asian speeches about the "yellow peril," a riot took place where a mob of 7,000 people marched through the streets of downtown Vancouver, smashing windows and destroying signs on Oriental businesses.
    • In Chinatown, they looted and burned thousands of dollars worth of Chinese property.
  • Komagata Maru (1914)
    • In 1908, the Canadian government imposed a "continuous passage rule" which forbid immigrants from making a direct journey to Canada. This measure was directly aimed at India immigrants, since there was no direct voyage from India at that time.
    • In 1914, a group of 376 Indians challenged this restriction, arriving in Vancouver on board the Komagatu Maru. After two months in the harbour and an unsuccessful court challenge, they were forced to return to India.
    • The boat sailed back to Calcutta where it was met by police, and 20 people were killed as they disembarked while others were jailed.
  • Ku Klux Klan in Canada
    • The Ku Klux Klan began in Tennessee in 1865. In the early 1920s, it expanded into Canada.
    • For much of the 1920's and 1930's, Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia had growing branches of the KKK.
    • But none of those provinces, even when combined, could equal the size and influence of the KKK in Saskatchewan. By 1928, local Klan’s had been established in more than 100 Saskatchewan communities, with nearly 40,000 members.
    • The KKK targeted the Catholic, Jewish, French, Chinese and Métis communities.
    • In 1979, Wolfgang Droege organized a British Columbia publicity tour for David Duke, Grand Wizard of the American based Knights of the KKK. Duke conducted more then 30 newspaper, television, and radio interviews.
  • Chinese Exclusion Act (1923)
    • The Canadian Federal government replaced the Chinese head tax with Chinese Immigration Act or Canadian Chinese Exclusion Act, which had the effect of barring Chinese immigrants from the country altogether.
    • The Chinese Immigration Act wasn’t repealed until 1947, and it wasn't until 1967 that the final elements of the Canadian Chinese Exclusion Act were completely eliminated.
    • July 1, 1923, is known as "humiliation day" in the Canadian Chinese community.
  • Canada’s response to the Holocaust
    • Canada’s record for accepting Jews fleeing the Holocaust was among the worst in the Western world.
    • Canadian policy towards Jewish refugees was summed up in the words of one official: "None is too many."
    • As Nazi-inspired hatred spread through Europe, many Jews tried to head to safety in North America. However, Prime Minister MacKenzie King and Immigration Director F.C. Blair kept the number of Jewish refugees small.
    • Between the years 1933 and 1945, less than 5,000 Jews were accepted into Canada.
  • S.S. St. Louis (1939)
Refugees aboard the St. Louis looking out the porthole
    • In May 1939, 907 German Jews left Hamburg aboard the SS St. Louis with visas allowing them to enter Cuba. But when they arrived in Havana harbour, Cuba denied the refugees entrance. The St. Louis was then turned away from Panama, Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Paraguay.
    • Canada was the last hope for the refugees aboard that ship, but the Canadian government refused them entry. The St. Louis sailed back to Europe. Very few of the refugees survived the Holocaust.
  • The Japanese Canadian Internment (1942)
    • During the Second World War, 22,000 Japanese Canadians were expelled from within a hundred miles of the Pacific.
    • Thousands were detained, and at the end of the war, "repatriation" to Japan was encouraged.
    • 4,000 people left, two thirds of them Canadian citizens.
  • Residential Schools
    • Attendance at residential schools was made mandatory by the government in 1920 for Native Canadian children between the ages of 7 and 16.
    • The "aggressive assimilation" program was dedicated to eradicating the languages, traditions and cultural practices of native Canadians.
    • Children were forced to leave their parents and were harshly punished for speaking their own languages or practicing their religions.
    • The Canadian government forced about 150,000 First Nations children into government-financed residential schools where many suffered physical and sexual abuse.
    • The residential schools have been linked to the widespread incidence of alcoholism, suicide and family violence in many native communities.

Beginning to Heal

  • First Nations right to vote
    • It wasn’t until 1960 that First Nations people got the right to vote in Canadian federal elections.
    • This was the first time that the government acknowledged citizenship for Aboriginal Peoples without the condition of the assimilation into the Canadian white society.
  • Immigration to Canada
    • Canada adopted a “merit system” in 1967 and removed all references to race and ethnicity, which had limited admission of people from Asian, African and Caribbean countries.
  • Constitution Act (1982)
    • The Constitution Act of 1982 included the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guaranteed fundamental freedoms of conscience, thought, speech and peaceful assembly, official language rights and equality rights without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic origins, religion, sex, age or disability and official language rights.
    • On September 22nd, 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney made a speech in the House of Commons to acknowledge the past injustices suffered by Canadians of Japanese ancestry.
    • A $21,000 per person settlement was reached with the National Association of Japanese Canadians for the internments and abuses of World War Two.
    • Prime Minister Harper made a full apology to the Chinese-Canadian community in 2006 for the head tax imposed on Chinese immigrants who came to Canada between 1885 and 1923.
    • In June 2008, Prime Minister Harper made an official apology at the House of Commons for the governments treatment of children in Indian residential schools, stating "Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm and has no place in our country."
    • The federal government agreed to pay $1.86 billion to surviving residential students, and to establish a truth and reconciliation commission to document the experiences of children who attended the schools.
    • Prime Minister Harper apologized in September 2008 for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident while speaking to a crowd of about 8,000 people in Surrey, B.C.
    • But members of Sikh community and an organization of the descendants of victims of the 1914 tragedy rejected the apology, demanding that the Prime Minister do the same in the House of Commons.

The History of Racism in B.C. Textbooks

  • In his article Stanley points out that by the 1920’s B.C. had become a white supremacist society.
  • Textbooks and school curriculum promoted racist and imperialist attitudes and helped foster an “ideology of difference” in B.C.

School textbooks helped to promote white supremacy and imperialist attitudes in several major ways:

• In B.C. textbooks the British Empire was illustrated as a moral enterprise that benefited subject peoples. The empire was presented the beacon of civilization which helped to bring enlightenment to millions.

• Textbooks explained that the British Empire was the product of genetically based moral superiority and presented subject peoples as morally inferior others. White people were presented as the most active, enterprising and intelligent people in the world.

• Textbooks consistently described Asian and First Nations people as the opposite of whites. China and Chinese people were illustrated as backward. The fact that Chinese people were also referred to as Chinamen also suggested that Chinese people belonged in China not Canada

• First Nations people were also similarly described as others and were often depicted as wild, savage, cruel and uncivilized in history texts.

• Unlike the Chinese other the Indian other was often described in the past tense which suggested that First Nations people were no longer actors in Canadian society and that they were a “vanishing race”

Racism: What does this mean in your classroom?

The Effects of Racist Bullying/Discrimination in School

Some of the effects of Racism are:

  1. Poor self-esteem
  2. Problems with learning and communicating with others
  3. Poor attendance in school
  4. Being scared all the time
  5. Problems making friends
  6. Difficulties trusting others.
  7. Confusion about personal identity
  8. Decrease creativity and imagination
  9. Withdrawal, anxiety, depression
  10. Aggressive and disruptive behaviors

More information @

Ministry Policy

The Ministry of Education states that "British Columbia schools strive to develop positive and welcoming school cultures, and are committed to fostering optimal environments for learning. Members of these school communities share a commitment to maintaining safe, caring and orderly schools." Within this policy, the standards in the Ministerial Order prescribe that within a school's code of conduct they must "address the prohibited grounds of discrimination set out in the BC Human Rights Code in respect of discriminatory publication and discrimination in accommodation, service and facility in the school environment."

District Policy

Please see your individual districts regarding their desired implementation of policy.

Socials Curriculum

Most of the Social Studies Curricula invite discussions on multiple perspectives, including race. Social Justice 12 seems like the platform in which to engage in the most serious discussions concerning race. Check out all the Socials IRPs at the Ministry's website.

Strategies for classrooms

With the right tools one can create a community of respect and diversity

The article "Diversity and Complexity in the Classroom: Considerations of Race, Ethnicity and Gender" by Barbara Gross Davis from University of California, Berkeley, outlines various strategies for our classrooms. The article with full details, research and bibliography can be found here.

  • General Strategies
    • Recognize any biases or stereotypes you may have absorbed.
    • Treat each student as an individual, and respect each student for who he or she is.
    • Rectify any language patterns or case examples that exclude or demean any groups.
    • Do your best to be sensitive to terminology.
    • Get a sense of how students feel about the cultural climate in your classroom.
    • Introduce discussions of diversity at department meetings.
  • Tactics for Overcoming Stereotypes and Biases
    • Become more informed about the history and culture of groups other than your own.
    • Convey the same level of respect and confidence in the abilities of all your students.
    • Don't try to "protect" any group of students.
    • Be evenhanded in how you acknowledge students' good work.
    • Recognize the complexity of diversity.
  • Course Content and Material
    • Whenever possible select texts and readings whose language is gender-neutral and free of stereotypes.
    • Aim for an inclusive curriculum.
    • Do not assume that all students will recognize cultural literary or historical references familiar to you.
    • Consider students' needs when assigning evening or weekend work.
    • Bring in guest lecturers.
  • Class Discussion
    • Emphasize the importance of considering different approaches and viewpoints.
    • Make it clear that you value all comments.
    • Encourage all students to participate in class discussion. D
    • Monitor your own behavior in responding to students. R
    • Refrain from making seemingly helpful offers that are based on stereotypes and are therefore patronizing. (An example to avoid: an economics faculty member announced, "I know that women have trouble with numbers, so I'll be glad to give you extra help, Jane.")
    • You might want to observe your teaching on videotape to see whether you are unintentionally sending different messages to different groups.
    • Reevaluate your pedagogical methods for teaching in a diverse setting.
    • Speak up promptly If a student makes a distasteful remark even jokingly.
    • Avoid singling out students as spokespersons.
  • Assignments and Exams
    • Be sensitive to students whose first language is not English.
    • Suggest that students form study teams that meet outside of class. By
    • Assign group work and collaborative learning activities.
  • Advising and Extracurricular Activities
    • Meet with students informally.
    • Encourage students to come to office hours (or in high schools, the times that you set aside to see students).
    • Don't shortchange any students of advice you might give to a member of your own gender or ethnic group.
    • Advise students to explore perspectives outside their own experiences.
    • Provide opportunities for all students to get to know each other.

The BCTF has an excellent guide on "How to handle harassment in the hallway in 3 minutes". A power point presentation with this points can be downloaded here. Check out the Ministry website for more details on the following steps[1]:

  1. Stop the harassment.
    1. Interrupt the comment. Halt the physical harassment.
    2. Do not pull students aside for confidentiality unless absolutely necessary. It is important that all students—onlookers, potential victims, and potential harassers—get the message that students are safe and protected in your school. Make sure all the students in the area hear your comments.
    3. Personalize the response: "Chris, please pause and think before you act."
  2. Identify the harassment.
    1. Label the form of harassment. "You just made a harassing comment/put-down based upon race" (or age, size, gender, religion, abilities, ethnicity, economic status, sexual orientation, etc.). Do not imply that the victim is a member of that identifiable group.
  3. Broaden the response.
    1. Do not personalize your response at this stage.
      1. "We, at this school, do not harass people.”
      2. "Our community does not appreciate hateful or thoughtless behaviour."
      3. "We don’t do put-downs at this school" specifically includes those listening, as well as the school community in general.
    2. Re-identify the offensive behaviour. "This name-calling can also be hurtful to the others who overhear it."
  4. Ask for change in future behaviour.
    1. Now turn the "spotlight" on the harasser, asking for accountability. Even if she or he was "only kidding," the harasser must realize the ramifications of the action. A major goal is to take the spotlight off the victim and turn the focus to the behaviour. Students should realize what was said, regardless of what was meant (e.g., kidding).
    2. Check in with the victim at this time. "If this continues, please tell me, and I will take further action. We want everyone to be safe at this school." Again, be sure not to treat the victim as helpless or a member of any target group. Rather, plainly give her or him responsibility on behalf of others.

Marginalization, Decolonization and Voice: Prospects for Aboriginal Education in Canada is a discussion paper done by Terry Wotherspoon and Bernard Schissel of the Department of Sociology at the University of Saskatchewan. This paper is a valuable and comprehensive resource that examines the education gap between First Nations and the rest of society, challenges the aboriginal communities face regarding education, and steps to make improvements.

Teaching Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism: Information, Strategies, and Lesson Plans


What is race? A simple way to find the answer is to look up the definition. However, the definition alone is inadequate as far as defining what race might be. The concept of race is complex and has a long history. The Wikipedia page on race (the classification of human beings) provides an in-depth look into the concepts of race, its history, the biology of race, the sociology of race, and much more. Of particular value is the comprehensive links on this page to further resources on race. This site really captures the complexity of race and is a great starting point for educating about race and race issues.

Classroom Culture This is a good lesson to provide students with an understanding of culture. This lesson challenges students to identify similarities and differences between different cultures and cultural universities (ex. concepts of what would be considered right vs. wrong). The object of this lesson is to show that many different cultures exist, even within the classroom. This lesson has an excellent activity where students create a "classroom culture." Suggested time: 1 class.

Teaching About Race and Prejudice is an eight page document that provides teachers the tools, background knowledge, tips, and reminders that are needed for teaching about race. This is a great document that offers great reminders and strategies for teachers.

Dealing with Racism

In order to deal with racism, it is important to know what it is and the forms that it may take. A great starting point is the Wikipedia page on Racism. This page is a great starting point and really goes into depth with regards to the major components of racism. This page is easy to navigate and is broken into logical subheadings so that readers can easily find specific information. Also at the bottom of the page is a comprehensive list of further resources and readings to one might consult.

This lesson is useful for teaching an understanding of discrimination. You will have to have the Dr. Seuss story "The Sneetches" as it is the hook and used to convey discrimination in a safe and simplified manner. This lesson is a great lesson for all ages and easily adaptable.

Designing an Anti-Racist Pamphlet for the 1940s is a lesson plan that spans two classes and looks at racism in Ontario. It involves looking at and analyzing a primary document. This lesson can be used as is or can be modified to suit specific needs.This rubric can be used to assess the pamphlet the students create.

Dealing with a racist incident: this strategy guide comes from Tower Hamlets, a suburb of London. This is an excellent guideline and can easily be applied into your class, school, or district

Anti-Racism: Strategies

The Wikipedia page on Anti-racism is a page that highlights the complexity of anti-racism and anti-racism movements. This site provides historical examples of racism and anti-racism and related topics. Caution and discretion should be used when referring to this site and should be looked at from a critical point. The most valuable aspect of this page are the links that it provides to Anti-racist organizations from Canada, Britain, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia and is worth checking out when teaching anti-racism.

White Anti-Racism: Living the Legacy is a must read. This site provides useful thinking strategies for white people to think about and get a better understanding of anti-racism. It is a simple question and answer format, with answers coming from four community activists of different race. This reading is best suited for senior high school and adults.

This Anti-Racism Resource Kit was produced by Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre and Calgary Committee on Race Relations and Cross Cultural Understanding for the Alberta as a result of racist incidents in schools in Edmonton and Calgary. This is a comprehensive tool that will help teachers teach anti-racism effectively in the classrooms. It is full of additional resources on anti-racism.

This site on Anti-racist and Multicultural education is a fantastic site that provides books and authors dealing with anti-racism and bringing cultural awareness into the classroom. This site provides books for an array of different courses and is a useful tool for teachers. Many of the books are geared for elementary and early high school students, however, it might be very enlightening for your students to bring such books into your classroom.

Here is a wiki page from wikipedia that is an introduction to An introduction to antiracist activism for teachers and students. This is a great site for teachers to use to give them the background information and knowledge that is needed to teach such a important topic. This page is huge, but is easily navigable, and will be an indispensable tool for all teachers.

External Links

Link back to main SSED317 page

Useful Websites

The readings assigned for this topic can be found at the course blog.

A check-list for a teacher to embrace multiculturalism called "20 (Self-)Critical Things I Will Do to Be a Better Multicultural Educator" [2]

All Canadians have a right to their cultural heritage. See the 1985 Multiculturalism Act [3]

Canada's Action Plan Against Racism: A Canada for All. Government of Canada[4]

Without Prejudice: Resources for Change. Anti Racism Resources for BC Educators. [5]

March 21 is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Make mention of this day in your classroom and access the various resources provided by the Canadian Heritage Site. Also, make note of their student video competition.

For more information on Aboriginal peoples and racism, check out the CBC News series Truth and Reconciliation: Stolen Children.

If any of your students are being bullied in regards to race (or any other issue) check out or the Canadian Leave Out Violence.

Useful Books Available at the UBC Education Library

Culhane, Stephen F. Responding to Racism: Measuring the Effectiveness of an Anti-Racism Program for Secondary Schools. Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 1995. Call Number: AW5.B71 1995-0290

Dei, George J. Sefa and Power, Agnes Calliste. Knowledge and Anti-Racism Education: A Critical Reader. Halifax: Fernwood, 2000. Call Number: LC1099.5.C3 P68

Hunter, Lauren. From Multicultural Differences to Difficult Multiculturalism: Locating Canada in International Debates on Gender, Anti-Racism and Human Rights. Call Number: AW5.B72007-317891

Johnson, Genevieve Fuji and Enomoto, Randy. Race, Racialization, and Anti-Racism in Canada and Beyond. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007. Call Number: FC104.R3128

MacDonald, Kathryn. Against Racism: Toward Anti-Racism Policies and Strategies in Post-Secondary Institutions. Ottawa: Canadian Bureau for International Education, 1992. Call Number: LB2376.6.C2 M32

Melenchuk, Allan S. Anti-Racism Training Workshop Module. Regina: AM Educational Research, 1994. Call Number: HT1521.M45

Province of British Columbia, Ministry of Education. Multicultural and Anti-Racism Education: Initiatives in Schools and School Districts. Victoria: Queen’s Printer for British Columbia, 1994. Call Number: LC1099.5.C2 M84

Walker, Barrington. The History of Immigration and Racism in Canada: Essential Readings. Toronto: Canadian Scholar Press, 2008. Call Number: JV7220.H48

Useful Video Clips

The following clips highlight racism and anti-racism in Canada and America:

  • Racist rally in Calgary[6]
  • Surrey anti-racism rally[7]
  • Dave Chappelle (warning: may offend some viewers)[8]

Useful Audio Interview

Check out an audio interview with internationally acclaimed author Alberto Manguel who explores the key to creating healthy societies, which to him means creating a cohesive culture of literature [9].

Group Members

  • Nigel Austen
  • Adam Haydon
  • Aviva Levin
  • Laura McLennan
  • Jessica Rudan