Saying No, Not Everything Is Racist In Our Schools

The need to shock people to gain attention is nothing new. Advertisers have been doing it for years. Remember those cheesy ad headlines - SEX - now that I have your attention. Well now the protest movements have taken a page from Madison Avenue to do their own version. They describe anything they believe needs changing and describe it in alarmist terms.

Canada is a racist country that commits genocide. Excuse me, what was that?

Now that social justice warriors have your attention a stunned public can continue to be enlightened on how everything they thought they knew, is in fact, wrong. Dare to temper their extreme views with nuance and context - good luck. Your comeuppance will be to be labelled the very thing you question. Many learned it was best to just let them continue.

Trouble with that, is that silence is often misinterpreted as acceptance. While often the exact opposite is true. The pressure to comply can lead to a bitter resentment and retrenchment. I have heard the grumblings from reasonable people. It certainly doesn’t lead to greater understanding if dissenting voices are silenced.

It is why I can’t hold my tongue when I hear claims that the very public education system I so proudly serve and cherish is charged with being systemically racist. In a lifetime spent as a student and now teacher in very diverse school settings I have not seen hateful acts of discrimination against individuals based on their race. Prejudice, bias, sadly yes. But actively discriminating students based on their race - thankfully, no.

Our system continues to produce countless talented grads of all races that contribute every day to this incredibly diverse province. Just last month I witnessed a student led provincial competition, DECA, where I was heartened to see so many kids of different backgrounds thriving once again. They are living proof of the equality of opportunity we provide to all our students.

This is not saying that our school system, does not suffer from other less inflammatory, but still deeply concerning charges. Our system, like society does have racial bias and prejudice that we must continue to overcome. But calling everything racist does not serve that goal. First, by throwing around that word so loosely it diminishes its power. Much worse is that using such inflammatory language to make people feel uncomfortable isn’t working. It is sowing resentment and is counterproductive in creating the open dialogue necessary for honest discussions on how to address and extinguish the darker qualities all humans possess. This door in the face sales technique may work selling something to customers, but making extreme accusations puts people on the back foot and cause them to ignore the very issues that need addressing.

That is a shame because we need to lean in to find common ground. We can’t put our heads in the sand to stark realities that need fixing. Achievement and student success results are too tilted to believe there is nothing wrong. Too many school faculties do not represent the ethnic backgrounds of the communities they serve. We can and must do better.

If reading this you still believe in your world that racism in our society is systemic and those opposed are only wanting to protect the status quo, you are entitled to your opinion. As am I. But passing off incendiary remarks as facts - is wrong.

Sadly, there are people who identify everyone by their race and see all of us as either being oppressed or an oppressor. Their ends justifies the means logic makes them think its fair game to use inflammatory rhetoric to accuse, abuse and intimidate others.

There is a word for people who think like that. We can’t let them speak for us and take us backward.

By Gregory Cawsey

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