Addressing Racism in Education: Changing the stories we live by...

Thomas King (2003) says “(i)f we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives” (p. 153) and perhaps the lives of our students?  I feel kinship with Brookfield (2015) when he admits to common mistakes he makes with faculty who are colleagues and peers, like being preachy.  There is nothing friends dislike more then being talked down to. So why do I do this?  Brookfield claims its because the scary thing, bearing our own souls and telling stories of our own mistakes, is avoided while we tell ourselves that we are collaborators in fighting against what he calls white supremacy (p. 114).

I agree with Brookfield, that when withholding my own struggles I maintain my own position of gatekeeper and leader.  So what could this sharing of narrative look like?

 Theresa Southam with Wab Kinew, September 23, 2016. Wab was keynote for the Indigenous Youth Education Symposium at Selkirk College.

Theresa Southam with Wab Kinew, September 23, 2016. Wab was keynote for the Indigenous Youth Education Symposium at Selkirk College.

Here’s a recent example.  I am currently the project coordinator for the first indigenous developed and delivered course at Selkirk College: Indigenous 100 – Regional Perspectives on Cultures and Languages is in the final stages by curriculum developers from the Ktunaxa, Nsyilxcen and Metis.  In my role as Coordinator, I have shared my mistakes with the educational developers, as well as acknowledged what Brookfield (2015) refers to as micro-aggressions. For example, in acknowledging what I thought were indigenous cultural norms, I suggested that assessments for the course be projects. One developer pointed out how projects often result in student research that further entrenches stereotypes about indigenous people. I acknowledged how I had used a pan indigenous worldview in making this suggestion and I apologized.

This is a small story. However, Brookfield (2015) contends that it is the sum total of educators’ micro-aggressions that keep white privilege and supremacy alive and well in our educational institutions. So I will keep telling my stories, admitting that escaping a racist ideology is as a difficult as climbing out of my own skin. 

References

Alexie, S., & Forney, E. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York: Little, Brown.

Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. John Wiley & Sons.

Coates, T. (2015). Between the world and me (First edition.). New York: Spiegel & Grau.

King, T. (2003). The truth about stories: A native narrative. Canada: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.