Becoming Aware of my ‘Racialized’ Past

As a young kid I was never really informed of race. I had little interactions with people of other races even into high school. I had no idea of the struggles and issues that were present within the city with regards to the native population or the country at large.

In my senior year of high school I picked up a job at a local retail center at which I stayed at for many years. Over this time the demographic changes the country, broadly, and the city, specifically, had began to change with an influx of minority populations immigrating to Canada and needing work at a low paying jobs such as my own workplace.

When I began at my workplace the workforce was predominantly white and the shift to a more diverse with varying ethnic workers took some years. I for one was never racist in the sense of offering direct discrimination to new works of other ethnic or cultures but can admit that I did cast bad light onto certain individuals of a particular group. The underlying racism is seen when I would cast that same light onto the group instead of the individual and perhaps presume certain things of them based on one initial reaction from one individual.

One of the things I had seen at my workplace was during breaks with people of mixed cultures would sit together and kind of inquisitively pick at some people asking them about there group that they are apart of. For example if two white Canadians are sitting with one Indian person the white people would inquire about the individuals entire culture. This can be seen on McIntosh (1990) with one of her tenets numbered 21 with that being, “I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.”

In one instance that stuck with me. I was working in a certain area with a woman that was Muslim. The area was routine filled with people that had questions about product that either of us could answer. While both standing around in the same aisle, a couple had passed her up and walking by her asked me the question instead. This kinda hit me as I knew she could answer the question but they instead asked me. Now that could be either because I was white, male and non-Muslim (at least by the look of me) or a mixture of one or all of these characteristics but I still brought to me the awareness of something that just was not right.

I am not sure if you can call this white privilege but it more-or-less feels that way to me because I was sought after just for being who I was a white and/or male individual. This can be seen in McIntosh (1990) as tenet number 4 with that tenet being, “I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant with me.”

I have to take this information and apply it in way that can benefit me a teacher. I cannot assume members of a race or ethnic group can speak for their entire group collectively. I cannot instigate equal policies when equitable policies would be preferred especially in those classrooms or schools with high demographics or indigenous peoples. I must be aware of my advantage that I had growing up within my own culture and language and not project my western ways of learning onto those students of differing cultures.

It is important that the predominately white field of education be aware of the historical advantages afforded to them in this country and that equitable policies be instilled during the pre-service teacher phase so that there is a authentic and meaningful experience to students of the future.

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