Understanding Anti-Racism

Reflect on the Following Real Life Scenario:

Kennedy shared what it was like for her as a Black student within the K-12 education system. Her experiences included being hypersexualized by teachers during health class, a white classmate’s insistence that she would have helped her escape slavery, being forced to translate historically inappropriate words in class, and getting a general sense of doubt about her ability to get into colleges of her choice from both peers and teachers alike. 

Kennedy expressed that by the time she was given the chance to be herself and feel empowered, the belief that she was powerless had already been ingrained. She never felt comfortable going to teachers office hours or expressing the fact that she needed support because they had never been there to help her before. The exception came in high school when she finally had Black teachers who allowed her the space to feel comfortable asking for support. Even then, it wasn’t until after graduation that she had built up the skill and comfortability. 

To read Kennedy’s story and other student’s experiences of racism in predominantly white schools, click the link here 

Interested in learning about how anti-racism work can take place in your school gyms and teams?

Join us online on March 27th for a half-day workshop where we will engage in conversations and learn about confronting racism for those working in K-12 schools, seeking to address, disrupt, and eliminate racism in sports.

What is Anti-Racism?

Academic definitions of anti-racism can help us to analyze policies, movements, and tools. Anti-racism recognizes that focusing only on prejudice misses the insidious nature of racism.

Anti-racism is a combination of practices and conversations that highlight how people are treated unjustly due to their race and how we, as a society, can live together in harmony with shared respect and opportunities when advocating for racial equity. Practicing anti-racism is crucial because it creates space to question why racism occurs, understand its history and present-day context, and challenge racial discrimination while reflecting on our own biases and prejudices.

Anti-racism is active resistance to discrimination on both the individual level, which can look like micro-aggressions and racial stereotyping and on a systemic level, which can present itself through discriminatory racial policies in your school or workplace. To work towards racial equity, we must enact antiracist policies and practices in every corner of our lives.

What micro-aggressions can look like in the classroom: 

  • “I’ve had teachers be surprised that I’m able to do certain things surrounding my academic performance.” 
  • “When I came to Canada, even though I was doing well academically, it was kind of brushed off like ‘she still doesn’t understand.'”
  • “Teachers have asked if my hair was real and other students have actually touched my hair.”

How systemic racism can present itself in the classroom:

  • “There are a lot of teachers who are blatantly ignorant when teaching and that gets passed down as knowledge to other generations. You take what your teacher says as the truth because that’s your source of education.” 
  • “There are few Black teachers and people of authority who will understand. Not having a role model or person to look up to is hard, especially when every other student has someone who looks like them to look up to.”
  • “A school is supposed to be a safe space to learn and grow, but it doesn’t feel safe, it feels like another challenge we have to overcome… It’s so taxing emotionally and at some point it doesn’t even feel like an extra weight because you’re so used to experiencing [racism] that you don’t realize it’s supposed to be any different. I don’t want this for my sisters, I don’t want them to get used to this.”

These are the testimonials of four Black students from the Peel District School Board in Brampton, Ontario. To watch the full video, click the link here. 

Though there are obstacles in their way, Black students continue to excel and thrive. Let's create educational environments that empower students to reach their potential and build communities of safety that support Black youth across Canada.

Watch these videos to take a deeper dive into what it really means to be anti-racist:

Reflect on the following questions:

  1. What does being anti-racist mean to you? 
  2. What are some practices you could implement in your school to help students and faculty understand anti-racism?
  3. How could you assist other colleagues in initiating conversations surrounding race to better support students of colour in your school?
  4. What are a few ways you can support your students in advancing their own anti-racism learning?