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The racism discussion

Where we live, it is part of the curriculum in high school to discuss racism and the effects.

My son was part of this learning in an English class that focused on First Nations writings and voices.

They did talk about residential schools. They did talk about the injustices. They did talk about racism. According to my son, all of this was taken seriously by the students.

And then, the discussion stalled. The (outwardly white-presenting) teacher couldn’t seem to move past obvious racism. He kept pulling the students into a discussion about how the students should not see their peers of colour as lesser, or unable, or unintelligent or lazy.

The thing is, these teenagers have grown up with that message their whole lives. All the cartoons and preschool shows they watched talked about inclusion. Told them all people are equal. All are able. All are intelligent.

Their teachers in school have all pressed the same information home.

Now, even my son knows there are students in his school, in his year, in his class that are still racist. Those students have been taught that at home. And the other students are not quiet about telling those particular students off.

His school is filled with students from everywhere in the world. So many different languages, cultures and colours. It is difficult to be outwardly, obviously, racist in the school. It is shut down relatively quickly.

That said, my son came home very upset several days into this curriculum on racism. “Why does the teacher keep telling us everyone is equal? We know that.”

And I agreed with him. So we had a discussion about systemic racism and what it was, and why it should be discussed in his class about racism. Why it was important to learn the history behind it. We agreed his teacher was doing the class a disservice by only talking about open, obvious racism. We need to talk about both.

We also agreed that a teacher who is outwardly white presenting should probably not be the only speaker in class. Other voices were required to round out the discussion and help the critical thinking process. My concerns have been forwarded to the school principal.

It’s not enough. The discussion and learning needs to continue. And we’ve only made a start.