Last updated: May 17, 2021
Racism is the belief that one group of people, identified by physical characteristics of shared ancestry (such as skin colour), is superior to another group of people that look different from themselves. Racism occurs when individuals or groups are disadvantaged or mistreated based on their perceived race and/or ethnicity either through individualistic or systemic racism.
There is no place for racism, discrimination, or intolerance in our province, communities or classrooms. But we know it continues to exist. B.C. students, families and staff face racism every day. Our schools need to support an understanding of culture, race and ancestry to create safe and inclusive learning environments. It is difficult but important to dismantle the effects of Canada’s colonial history and critical that people with lived experience guide this work.
We want to address racism in all its forms. B.C. public school districts must have codes of conduct and independent school authorities must have policies to address racism and discrimination and align with the B.C. Human Rights Code.
We created a Community Roundtable on Anti-Racism in education to assist the Ministry of Education in developing an anti-racism action plan to dismantle racism and discrimination in our education system. Check back here for updates on the Anti-Racism Action Plan.
The effects of racism are influential on young people because they are in a critical stage of development. Racialized youth report:
- Unequal access to resources and opportunities
- Frequent exposure to discriminatory treatment including microaggressions
- Lack of diverse representation in images, media and learning resources
Racism creates significant disparities for B.C. students resulting in higher instances of stress, self-reported poor health, and suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Microaggressions are often brief and common interactions such as jokes or comments. They might be communicated once or repeatedly either verbally, nonverbally, or within the environment. At school, microaggression examples include:
- Mispronouncing someone’s name, even after being corrected
- Disregarding religious and cultural holidays and traditions
- Making assumptions about someone based on their perceived race
- Making fun of someone’s lunch or snacks
Individual racism refers to someone’s own racist assumptions, beliefs, or behaviours. Individual racism is learned, supported and reinforced by systemic racism.
Systemic racism is how society is set up to favour some groups of people over others. Canada’s legacy of institutions designed on racist principles has harmed and continues to harm Indigenous peoples and people of colour. Examples of systemic racism in Canada include, but not limited to the Indian Residential School System and the Chinese Exclusion Act.
People participate in systemic racism every day without being aware of it. It’s important to understand colonialism in Canada and how participation in these systems and behaviours is racist.
Racism in Canada may not be your fault, but we all have an individual and collective responsibility to be aware of it and work towards creating a more inclusive society.
Privilege means having an advantage over others that wasn’t earned. It’s unfair and creates inequity in how resources and opportunities are shared.
The term ‘white privilege’ means white people receive benefits and face fewer barriers than Indigenous peoples and people of colour. White privilege doesn’t mean that you haven’t experienced hardship. It’s just that the colour of your skin is not one of the reasons why you’ve experienced hardship. Recognizing privilege means understanding and acknowledging that racialized people face hurdles in society that white people do not. Addressing white privilege requires critical reflection of policies, culture and behaviour.
The term intersectionality acknowledges that different parts of our identities, such as race, gender, and sexual orientation shape the experiences for individuals and groups of people. Intersecting identities can create additional barriers or opportunities. Understanding intersectionality helps to identify different forces of discrimination that people experience to then address them.
We all can help prevent racism and create positive change in our communities. It is not enough to be “not racist”. To be anti-racist, we must work to speak up and dismantle racism in all its forms.
Report it. If you see or experience an act of racism or hate, take it seriously. If there is an immediate threat to your safety or the safety of someone else, call 911.
If it’s not an emergency, there are different options for reporting:
- erase Report It tool
- Tell an adult what happened – try to provide as many details as you can
- Call the non-emergency number for your local police department
Reflect. Consider your own values and membership to different groups, as well as the behaviours around you to identify where racism exists and how it continues to be reinforced. Understand and recognize your own biases (everyone has them), and then work to address them.
Listen. Be open to hearing experiences of racism with trust and without judgement. We need to hear these stories to understand the impact of racism and make positive change.
Understand privilege. Use your privilege to speak up for others and make space for others to speak up. Challenge the behaviour, not the person. We can all learn, change and grow.
Admit mistakes. Mistakes will happen, regardless of your intentions. Acknowledge what you have said or done that is racist and continue your commitment to grow and change for the better.
Learn. Seek out information related to racism and experiences that are different from your own (for example, books, movies, podcasts). Share what you learn with people around you.
Expand vocabulary. Start with the basics and learn the terms to understand the impacts of racism and how to talk about it.
Get involved. Connect locally (for example, school and community) to anti-racism work and find out what you can do to prevent and address racism.
Share stories. Read books together that normalize diversity and inclusion and demonstrate kindness.
Talk to your children. Start conversations about racism and keep them open; allow children to question, express and explore topics; ask about their experiences at school.
- Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation by Monique Gray Smith
- This Place – 150 Years Retold by Various Indigenous Authors/Illustrators
- This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell
- Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
- New Kid and Class Act by Jerry Craft
- Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, And Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad
- The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King
- 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph
- Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
- The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph
- How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X.Kendi
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes What we See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo
- BC Anti-racism
- Resilience BC
- British Columbia’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner – Be Anti-Racist
- BC Black History Association
- African Descent Society
- Delta School District
- Minister of Education and K-12 education partners’ joint statement of support for anti-racism
- News release on new community roundtable to tackle racism in B.C. schools
- Parliamentary secretary's statement in response to addressing-racism report
- Joint statement on Black Shirt Day
- Joint statement by Premier John Horgan and Rachna Singh, Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives