In the past, Europeans colonized many different countries in the world. This resulted in a redistribution of world resources through the actions of the dominant Europeans. In other words, the Europeans held racist beliefs and used them to justify the exercise of power in many areas of life, thereby producing dramatic negative economic and social impacts for many peoples around the world. The effects of racism are still felt all around the globe today because racialized people, or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of colour), continue to face barriers when accessing education, healthcare, and employment, and experience an overall lack of influence in decision making in government and business.
While you read, consider the following:
- What information is new?
- What did I used to think?
- How can I use this information to welcome others?
Racism is a set of economic, political, and ideological practices whereby a dominant group exercises control over subordinate groups.
Racism is a concept founded on the scientifically incorrect idea that there are biological inequalities between people of different races. Racism is informed by the belief that some races are superior than others and that the superior races should be able to control so-called inferior races. Scientifically, all human beings are from the same species and therefore have the same abilities and potentials. Only when one group of people exercises control over another group does that limit their access to opportunities and therefore the abilities of that group.
For those who come from a privileged racial background, unpacking what it means to be white can prove a challenging and confronting task. The privilege of being white in a Euro-centric cultures such as Canada means that a person doesn’t need to be aware of their culture. They have been designed for the culture and the culture has been designed for them. Effective change lies in making whiteness visible by exploring it as a racial or cultural construct, and defining whiteness in a non-defensive and non-racist manner.
In order to break down the barrier of racism we need to be anti-racist. This means white society must be willing to look at themselves honestly, to confront the truth about themselves and the world, and to realize that non-white people experience the world differently than white people. Being anti-racist means taking action to make space for racialized peoples’ voices and recognizing when systems have not been set up to support racialized people.
Consider the following questions:
- How has racism affected my life?
- What can I do to be anti-racist and break down barriers to make space for everyone’s voices?
Europeans colonized many different parts of the world and exercised control over many groups of racialized people. In Canada, this colonization continues to be felt by racialized people when they face barriers to community supports such as healthcare and education. People with privilege in Canada need to increase their awareness of what that privilege affords and how a lack of privilege can increase barriers for others. In college, we can work toward be anti-racist by ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard and by breaking down barriers that create oppression for racialized people.
Attribution Statement: Adapted from Intercultural Learning: Critical preparation for international student travel by Peter Jones; Debra Miles; and Narayan Gopalkrishnan, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
- Dominelli, 2008, as cited in Intercultural Learning: Critical preparation for international student travel ↵
- United Nations, 1965, as cited in Intercultural Learning: Critical preparation for international student travel ↵
- Cheboksarov, 1980, as cited in Intercultural Learning: Critical preparation for international student travel ↵
- Sue, D. W., 2006, as cited in Intercultural Learning: Critical preparation for international student travel ↵