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Systemic Racism

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Aileen Neale

on 12 January 2016

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Transcript of Systemic Racism

• Bryan (2012) describes cultural racism as the subjugation of certain cultural groups on the basis of their cultural attributes, such as religious practices, clothing, values and so forth.
• Interestingly, Schmidt (2005) suggests that cultural racism includes “unconscious attitudes and behaviours based on a white cultural norm” (p.113). In other words, the dominant white culture dictates what is considered “normal” or “good” and all other cultural practices are held against this standard.
• Both descriptions yet again bring concepts of power and dominance to the fore.
• Yu’s (2006) article looks at an example of a stereotypical narrative on Asian Americans, “the model minority”, which describes them as a hard working and successful minority group. Yu argues that such stereotyping benefits white elites because it “deflects people’s attention away from social and structural problems” and also the need for social or structural change (p.329). This kind of “positive” stereotyping becomes a means to maintain current power structures.
• It is important to think about how these broader cultural values and beliefs shape social institutions and how these institutions treat different "racial" groups
• A key question to ask (also posed by Ann in our last lecture) is whether there is a Canadian culture and how could that contribute to racism in our society? Raby’s (2004) article which includes teenagers’ perceptions on racism discusses how teenagers speak about whether or not their friends fit into the Canadian culture (suggesting that it would be harder for those who don’t fit in neatly). Raby considers how this might reflect that there is a homogenous Canadian culture that requires conformity.

- Glossary
- Introduction
- Theoretical Background
- Theoretical Considerations
- What does it look like in the classroom?
- Five faces of oppression and
classroom strategies
- Primary vs. Intermediate
- Activity of privilege
- Conclusion
- Annotated Bibliography

Active Racism:
mobile forms of racism
Cultural Imperialism:
The oppressed cultural group is stereotyped and named the “Other,” resulting in being disregarded and criticized harshly. The group with the power in the society controls how people interact and operate.
Cultural Racism:
The idea that the dominant group dictates cultural norms and anything that doesn't fit those ideals would be considered bad or inferior. It is important to consider how cultural, institutional, and individual racism relate to one another.
Unequal access or treatment to goods, services, facilities, etc… of individual or group because of their race, gender, class, ancestry, colour, age, or religion.
Unequal structural relation, where the class of people with power and wealth uses the class of people without capital resources to their advantage without fair compensation.
Individual Racism:
when an individual engages in racist behaviour or possesses racist beliefs and attitudes. This is a crucial concept because most people tend to consider racism as being solely attributed to Individual racism, which we found is not the case.
Institutional Racism:
how racism is embedded in social institutions or structures in a way that benefits the dominant white culture. It is important to think about how individual acts are influenced by the larger social system that individuals are placed in.
having an irrational fear of or prejudice toward Muslim people or people who may appear to be Muslim
Exclusion of a group of people from “useful participation in social life,” including school. Predominantly marginalized upon race.
is when people reduce the potential for other people to be fully human. In other words, oppression is when people make other people less human.
Passive Racism:
any action, belief, or attitude that contributes to the perpetuation of racism without the conscious consent of the individual
Form of oppression creates a division between classes, where the ruling class dominates, and treats "lower" classes with disrespect and limited rights to make decisions.
Power Inequalities:
Imbalance in distribution of ability in a certain context. It is important to think about the power struggles of certain race in comparison to white privilege.
An opinion or judgment based on lack of knowledge, consideration, and respect. Prejudice usually leads to discrimination.
A social construct that ascribes meaning to physical traits and also uses these ideas for justifying domination. The concept of race is ultimately at the root of racism.
Racial Apathy:
the indifference towards, or lack of engagement with issues of racial and social inequality,

Main question: What is systemic racism and how do we address it in the classroom?

From the case:
You pick up a note from the school principal. It reads:
I had a little chat with Emma and Sophie on the playground at lunchtime after I heard them calling Mohamed a "terrorist." Both girls were very embarrassed and apologized to Mohamed. Still, we've had a few similar incidents lately and I think we need to revisit racism at our next meeting.
Other relevant issues in the case:
"RedSkin" mascot, Asian students anglicizing their names, students grouping themselves at lunch along ethnic/racial lines.

While doing our research, we realized that many of these issues in the case can be attributed to systemic racism and decided to focus our packaged on this topic.
Our research package is not supposed to address everything that is entailed within systemic racism or answer all the questions that surround this massive concept. However, our package does seek to explore the complexities of systemic racism on a deeper level. The package looks at some different theories surrounding systemic racism including individual, institutional, and cultural racism. The package also explores how racism might manifest itself in the classroom and strategies to address the different forms of racism. This package is meant to help readers have the understanding that racism is systemic in our school system and is not limited to the individual.


The concept of systemic racism is bigger than us and it is important to recognize that as we do this package we are coming from a place of privilege which stems from systemic racism. This research package was meant to show that racism is not limited to the individual and that systemic racism exists in our society and specifically, in the school system. The theories addressed were meant to show how complex systemic racism is. The school system itself is an example of systemic racism and the fact that students have a lack of understanding that racism is not limited to the individual shows that the school system supports this way of thinking. The strategies for the classroom address the five faces of oppression and seek to solve some of the imbalances. In conclusion, we feel systemic racism is something that connects to ideas of gender, sexual orientation, class, and race and that all of these concepts are woven through each other. Systemic racism is prevalent throughout the school system and this package has brought that idea to the surface.
Case 5 - Research Package
Harleen Khangura
Katie Milne
Aileen Neale
Karen Young
TELL-3C Cohort
Dec. 11, 2015

Feagin (2001) defines systemic racism as the combination of “a diverse assortment of racist practices; the unjustly gained economic and political power of whites; the continuing resource inequalities; and the white-racist ideologies, attitudes, and institutions created to preserve white advantages and power" (Schmidt, 2005, p.111).
Institutions would include the justice system, schools, media, banks, health care, government etc. (Schmidt, 2005)
Issues of power, white dominance/oppression, and white privilege (how they are advantaged by the system) are key in Feagin's definition.
Racism has been mostly taught to be defined by inherit biological characteristics that have classified human beings
Racist ideologies make white supremacy seem natural
Allowed justification for slavery and colonization (Schmidt)


Racial apathy, which comprises indifference towards, or lack of engagement with issues of racial and social inequality, which is now how racism is displayed in our contemporary society (Bryan, 2012).
Racial apathy accepts the racial status quo and prevents whites from recognizing their own privilege.
People do not see social institutions that systematically disadvantage different groups (races)
Active Racism- mobile forms of racism
Passive Racism- any action, belief, or attitude that contributes to the perpetuation of racism without the conscious consent of the individual
Racism is internalized in the human mind
Members of subordinate groups act on the stereotypes that dominate groups have created
-(Schmidt, 2005)
The term race was popularized in the 19th century
Race is a social construct that gives meaning to physical attributes (Schmidt, 2005)
Modern race thinking began to emerge from the Atlantic slave trade
Racism is a multi-faceted system of power and dominance which privileges the whites and provides economic, political, social and even psychological rewards to them (Bryan, 2012).
Race was historically used to justify exploitation, subjugation, and imperialistic practices (Bryan, 2012).
As it can be seen, the very concept of race is problematic because it is rooted in issues of power, domination, and colonialist structures (i.e. the roots of racism).

Strategies to counteract:
1. Brainstorming reasons for omissions in the socially dominant curriculum
Eg. Re-examining omissions of Aboriginal perspective in social studies textbooks and how it feeds into existing stereotypes of Aboriginal people. This shows how the past (colonization) impacts the present, then tying and
transcibing it to White privilege.

2. Unfolding the struggles and constraints of the oppressed group and how it may interact with and discloses political distress

Example Activities
1. “Rethinking Columbus unit”
Get students to think critically about how the arrival of Columbus impacts Aboriginal people. Re-examining social studies textbook and how it portrays positive perspectives of European settlers.

2. Using Literature: “Shi shi etko” by Nicola Campbell (2005)
About Aboriginal girl who is preparing to leave family and community to go to a residential school.
Literature will provide students with opportunity to take on other's perspectives.
Ask questions like “How would you feeling if you were taken away from your family? And everything you were taught by your parents, like way you dress and language, was not valid and you had to change every routine.”
The oppressed cultural group is stereotyped and named the “Other,” resulting in being disregarded and criticized harshly. The group with the power in the society controls how people interact and operate.
Exclusion of a group of people from “useful participation in social life,” including school. Predominantly marginalized upon race.
1. Select material and literature that illustrates social injustice and allow exploration of the narrative
2. Promote greater inclusion by arranging collaborative group work
3. Fostering supported integration to create inclusive classroom. Eg. Building relationships with the school professionals and gather resources to assist students with special needs

• Individual racism considers how racism is practiced by individuals through their beliefs and actions (Schmidt, 2005)
• It is important to think about how individuals may be getting influenced (as well as how they are engaged in influencing) the cultural attitudes and behaviours around them that continually get reflected by social institutions and their treatment of specific cultural groups.
• Important question to ask: can we define racist behaviour that an individual engages in (such as when Emma and Sophie call Mohammad a terrorist) as being solely a form of Individual racism?

Example Activity
1. Personalized Stories/Activities
ELL/EAL – need to provide them opportunities to explore and represent their own stories, where it fosters their linguistic and cultural repertoire by activating their prior knowledge. Rewrite stories in first language and ask parents to tell stories in their language.

2. Differentiating Opinion from Fact in Texts
Discuss how opinions can be misconstrued as facts and how it may lead to stereotyping or racism.
Sample Questions:
What causes the racist character to feel this way?
Are the character’s reasons opinion or fact?
How do opinions get misconstrued as fact?
How do opinions affect behaviour? Where
can we intervene?

Physical Force, harassment, unprovoked attacks upon members of a structural social group, simply because they belong in that group. There may not be a specific motive or intention, but these attacks lead to damage ad humiliation.
General Strategies:
1. Explicitly stating that exclusionary language and behaviour is unacceptable and disrespectful then question impact of assumptions
2. Identifying incidents of violence (eg.homophobia, racism, sexism) right away and discussing how these are more than individual forms of prejudice, but a systemic and institutionalized form
Strategies to help students that are perceived to be more privileged to recognize and understand systemic violence
1. Illustrating similarities to another form of violence that is already recognized as oppressive
2. To indicate one's privilege by drawing on personal stories or lived experiences of systemic violence
3. Examining instances of textual violence, including the harmful histories of particular terms (eg. origin of moron in racist movements)

Unequal structural relation, where the class of people with power and wealth uses the class of people without capital resources to their advantage without fair compensation.
1. Connecting historical and current examples of exploitation
2. Linking global with national and local examples - how the system perpetrates class differences (rich vs poor) between countries and comparing it to local suburbs (West vs East Vancouver)
3. Drawing attention to student activist movements

Example Activities
1. Looking into World Movements
Bring Occupy movement into classroom and compare it to other movements (eg. mobilization of unemployed during Great Depression, youth driven protests) – and widening inequality between rich and poor in Canada
2. Unit on Child Labour and Rights
Learn about United Nation convention on the Rights of Child. Then look at photos of child labour in the World and share stories of child activist that made a difference.

Form of oppression creates a division between classes, where the ruling class dominates, and treats "lower" classes with disrespect and limited rights to make decisions. Links to capitalist societies, where there is a division in labour ("professionals vs. unprofessionals", resulting in major status differences and power dynamics in the society.
1. Ask students to construct contradictory meaning of texts
2. Create their own meaningful products that represent their identity
3. Collaboratively as a class to set important classroom routines
4. Allow students to communicate ideas and advocate for wider public spheres
5. Challenging the concept of "all-knowing teacher"

Peggy Macintosh..
“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness,not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group”

For our activity we have decided to have the class do a self-test to assess their privilege using Peggy McIntoshs' "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack". She has stated things that contribute to her white privilege on a daily basis. We also encourage the class to consider other factors that contribute to their privilege other than race for example gender, sexual orientation or class.

Students tend to attribute racism to individual acts and are unable to see the structural or cultural forces behind it (Schmidt, 2005; Bryan, 2012). Raby (2004) also provides research that demonstrates how students refused to see or were unable to see racism at their schools and instead, attributed racist behaviour to race-based stereotyping or popularity at school. This suggests that students may not understand the complications associated with the concept of racism.
Similarly, a lot of the teenagers engaged in what Raby calls “white defensiveness” when they suggested that white people are now undergoing racism. According to Raby, this suggests that the students are unable to grasp the importance of power differences that exist between different social groups.
Raby also noticed that the teenagers she interviewed refused to see one’s race or colour. She calls this being “race-blind” and asks if one cannot see race, how will they see racism?
Bryan's (2012) article discusses how school curricula uses definitions of racism that focus on racial differences or individual acts and lack references to issues of white privilege and systemic issues. This is an example of how schools are perpetuating ignorance of the wider issues involved in racism.
All of these issues highlight why teaching about systemic racism is crucial

Schmidt (2005) states that racism in rooted in American culture (arguably Western culture overall), institutions, and individuals
Raby (2004) similarly focuses on localized and individual racism that is linked to broader institutional structures as well as racism based on cultural traits.
According to Schmidt, all three (individual, institutional, and cultural racism) are interconnected and feed off of each other. In order to fully grasp the concept of racism as well as the complications associated with this concept, it is important to understand these three elements.
Islamophobia can be defined as having an irrational fear of or prejudice toward Muslim people or people who may appear to be Muslim (Ramarajan and Runell, 2007).
Men in media outlets often portrayed as Arabs or Arab terrorists and women are often portrayed as belly dancers and harem girls. This is not an accurate depiction of Islam and must be constantly challenged by teachers.
There is now a call on for an education program that effectively promotes interreligious respect and inclusion
Greatest fear for educators is talking about religion with their students because many educators feel inadequately informed about religions especially Islam.
There is a lack of positive and non-stereotypical images of Muslims
Children can exhibit racist attitudes as early as preschool
Children go through two important social cognitive transitions:
They begin to notice that they belong to a type of racial group that is unchanging.
As well they notice that different traits identify different people focusing on internal and psychological abilities. This is where children begin to ask questions and is the key moment for the development of prejudices.
-(Ramarajan and Runell)

Class Collage Activity
Developing Identity and Relationships Activity
Understanding Over-Generalizations and Stereotypes
Take note that this is based on an Australian website, therefore statements should be modified depending on the context and the children.
Impact of Teasing
The story can be altered if the teacher hopes to focus on a certain classroom situation and/or to bring awareness to specific behaviours happening in the class.
The idea that racism is embedded in social institutions, which Schmidt (2005) describes as organizations (i.e. social justice system, health-care, education, media) that control the allocation of resources to individuals and social groups and therefore benefit the dominant culture group
Example: Gilmore (2015) argues that the current plight of the Aboriginal population in Canada can be attributed to racism. One example amongst several is that the incarceration rate of Aboriginal people is 10 times the national rate.
Source: Gilmore, 2015
This chart provides statistical information that demonstrates how institutional racism is very much a reality in Canada. It also provides an interesting comparison with institutional racism in the United States against African-Americans, suggesting that the racial problem in Canada is worse.
Stereotyping of race is when one/group of people is forms a fixed image or reference to a group of people.
Systemic Racism:
Includes issues of power structures, white dominance, cultural racism, as well as institutions that enforce white privilege and power. The concept of systemic racism is crucial because it illuminates the issue of power and structural forces that are otherwise unseen in our society.
Systemic Violence:
Physical Force, harassment, unprovoked attacks upon members of a structural social group, simply because they belong in that group. There may not be a specific motive or intention, but these attacks lead to damage ad humiliation.
White Privilege:
We think of this concept in terms of how individuals from the dominant, white cultural group are advantaged in the society, through social institutions or social, cultural norms and so forth.

There are lots of manifestations of racism in Case 5, including Emma and Sophie calling Mohammad a racist, lunch groups organized around ethnic lines, as well as anglicizing of names in the school. Based on our research on systemic racism, we think that these actions are taking place in the school because of the system and culture that the students are entrenched in. All three forces, institutional, cultural, and systemic racism are at play here and none of these actions can be seen as being solely individual but are based on the larger cultural and institutional structures and issues of power, white privilege, and dominance.
Deirdre Kelly (2012), Teaching social justice: Translating an anti-oppression approach into practice
Deirdre Kelly (2012)
Deirdre Kelly (2012)
Deirdre Kelly (2012)
Deirdre Kelly (2012)
Deirdre Kelly (2012)
Example Activities
1. Counteracting Stereotypes in Mainstream Media
Ask students to research and examine stereotypes in mainstream media (eg. Disney princesses), and then create flyers or posters to counteract these media messages.

2. Creating Criteria
Co-decide and -determine criteria needed for assignments.
Activities retrieved through www.racismnoway.com.au and www.prejudicenoway.com.
In Primary grades, the activities are more focused on developing self-identity, understanding differences/similarities within a classroom, as well as fundamental understanding of concepts like prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination.
From the case:
You pick up a note from the school principal. It reads:
I had a little chat with Emma and Sophie on the playground at lunchtime after I heard them calling Mohamed a "terrorist." Both girls were very embarrassed and apologized to Mohamed. Still, we've had a few similar incidents lately and I think we need to revisit racism at our next meeting.
Lunch groups based on ETHNIC/RACIAL lines
"Teachers expressed disbelief that racism could be a problem in the school."
Making fun of clothes, food, or physical appearance of people from another culture
Using insulting language about particular cultural groups
Making fun of people's accents or names
Refusing to work or play with or sit next to people who are from another culture or speak another language
Bullying students from different cultural and linguistic groups
Stereotyping people from different cultural or linguistic groups
Telling people to "go back where they came from"
Not respecting people's different religious beliefs
Tator & Henry (2006)
R. Raby (2004)...
Interview with 12 teenage girls who live in the Toronto area
Asked "How might adolescence be experienced differently on the basis on cultural background and race?", "What does race and racism look like in your school?"
Students denied and downplayed racism in their schools; narrowly defined racism; privileging definitions of racism as individualized and violent over institutional and systemic; conceptualized racism in a way that centers around whiteness
Many of the interviews defined racism as an individual attribute
Lack of familiarity with anti-racist education, lack of awareness of structural racism
Schmidt (2005)...
Most students think of racism in terms of it being simple, focusing almost exclusively on the individual acts of racial bias and hatred
Students view racism as individual bias or hostility
Students lack a broader understanding of the systemic nature of the problem
Socialization gives students little alternative but to see racism as individual prejudice or hostile actions between people of different races
Individual racism allows for systemic racism to grow
Pollock, M. (2008)...
Offers four questions as a beginning point for assessing and addressing systemic racism in a school setting.
1. Am I seeing, understanding, and addressing
the ways the world treats me and my students as members of racial groups?
2. Am I seeing, understanding, and addressing
communities and individuals in their full complexity?
3. Am I seeing, understanding, and addressing
the ways opportunities to learn or thrive are unequally distributed to racial groups?
4. What actions offer
necessary opportunities to students in a such a world?
"Would you say there's racism in your school?"
"Oh, no. Definitely no. Not intended, like you know? Nothing. No."
“And there’s this one girl, she’s new to the school. Think she’s from Africa or something, she’s really dark. No one wants to talk to her because of that. People walk by her ‘oh my god she’s so dark’!”
“make fun of them because they’re a different race, but it’s not a much, it’s not as bad, like that’s not one of the main issues.”
The school system itself supports ideas of systemic racism
School system claims to be 'inclusive' and with the new curriculum there are hopes for development
However, can be problematic with the lack of engagement/participation of Indigenous students and students of color by some teachers
The foundations of the school system is developed from a white privilege, westernized, euro-centric view
History of "Canada" is favored by the Pioneers vs. the Aboriginal peoples who are our history - told from a colonizer perspective
Curriculum sometimes does not recognize that every culture in the world has its own history of 'mathematics' and 'science', even if not voiced in Western terms
Making excuses that racism is against the individual vs. a whole cultural group
Having a color-blind approach to racism
Avoiding the subject of racism all together in order to avoid tough conversations
Not being able to recognize that our society is embedded in systemic racism and attributing racism to one singular person









Oppression can manifest through racism, where it is a systemic targeting of one social group by a more powerful or privileged social group for social, economic, and political benefits. This hierarchy is maintained through interaction of history, culture, media, institutional practices and personal beliefs.
Activities retrieved from prejudicenoway.com and racismnoway.com.au
Activities retrieved from The KIT: A manual by youth to combat racism through education.
In Intermediate grades, the students explore current issues of racism and understand how racism is systemically integrated into our society and culture. Activities from The KIT promote learning of race privilege, power inequalities, and systemic racism.
These activities promote positive attitudes about their self character and about their friends. Encouraging relationships will be built through buddy activities.
This activity promotes understanding and acceptance of differences in the classroom. Students will learn to value others' similarities and differences, where teachers can lead discussions on shape, colour, and position of facial features of each individual.
Prior to this activity, the teacher should spend some time introducing the terms "over-generalization" and "stereotypes." This activity will provide students will a deeper understanding of the concepts by the use of relatable examples, where they may see in their daily experiences.
This activity invites students to participate in sharing their experiences of teasing. From listening to others' experiences, they may see similarities in how it may have manifested (eg. media, culture, society etc...), where teachers can lead the discussion towards institutional oppression and racism.
This ice-breaker activity is a great introduction to anti-racism activities because it focuses on communication, respect and listening to others. These skills are important when discussing about sensitive issues of racism, where personal experiences may be shared. For example, privileged students (eg. dominant language, skin colour) can listen to others’ feedbacks and strategies in untying the knot.
This group activity is to encourage students to think, talk, and reflect about racism and recognize that it still happens within our community. Working to problem-solve the scenarios will help them understand ways to respond to situations involving racism. More importantly, they learn that racism does not reside to just an individual, but it is embedded in institutions.
Prior to Activity
Provide students with an “out” or a reason to leave should they start to feel uncomfortable. “If you feel uncomfortable or want to use the washroom or get a drink at any time, feel free to do so. – This way the participants do not need to explain themselves if they feel like they need to step out of the discussion for a moment.

Debrief and Wrap Up
Ask students if they hope to discuss any other scenarios – that they have faced or heard from a friend’s experience. Then ask the group for possible solutions and ask if they would feel comfortable in using them.
Emphasize action, reminding each participant to strive to be agents of a racism-free future.

• This activity focuses on White privilege, where it assesses the realization of advantages of racism for white people.
• "It assists the group to begin to feel and think about the impact of racism for people of colour, including some of the day to day frustration that are the consequence not of the individual mean actions, but of
the way society is structured
" (Abboud, R. et al., 2002. The KIT)
• This awareness helps students build a bridge of understanding of institutional racism, and promotes anti-racism approaches to end unfair privilege based on skin colour.

Images of sample activities: Retrieved from http://www.prejudicenoway.com/gallery.html

Is our cohort a product of systemic racism?
Reflecting on all of this information, we have started to question the dynamics of our cohort
We do not think people are participating in indivdiual racism however, we do think that we are embedded in insititional and cultural racism
Table groups tend to be along racial/ethnic lines
Some of us may not even realize that we are separating ourselves along these lines
Do we sit together because of our likes and dislikes? Or is it more than that?
Lunch groupings tend to be along racial/ethnic lines
Participation - Does this play a factor? Is it a coincedience that white people are generally the ones talking up in class? Or is it because they are extroverts? Are their voices being heard more because they are white?
All of our instructors are white...
Is this a coindence? Or is it because we are embedded in systemic racism? Is it because white people have privilege and therefore given more oppoturtunites?
Having all white instructors shows that the schooling system is rooted in ideas of racism
These are tough questions to answer but it is important to pose them so we can begin to question and discuss the bigger picture!
Full transcript