Let’s Talk About Racism

I think we can all agree that racism is bad. Racism is unacceptable. And when we’re talking about education, racism is more than mean or rude — it damages children, often for life. We can never let up in the fight against racism — as well any any form of prejudice, whether it’s based on skin colour, language, religion, sexual orientation, anything. That having been said, we need to think about more than just focusing on the words people use. My view is very simple:

  • It’s never okay to condemn or mock anyone because of who they are — this applies to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, language, you name it.
  • It’s never okay to exploit prejudice in an attempt to win votes — emphasizing differences to win elections is never okay. It increases tensions, suffering and even violence.
  • Nobody stops being a human being just because they say something we don’t like — it’s easy to condemn people; reaching out and accepting them takes work, but it’s worth it.

I come from a very multicultural family. I have experienced racism often in my life, both firsthand, as a result of my background, and secondhand — I sometimes get wrongly identified as belonging to various ethnic groups. I know the pain hate causes. I continue to struggle with it even as an adult.

However, I am absolutely certain of one thing: racism is caused by dehumanization.

Racism, in other words, is the symptom, not the disease, and the disease is refusing to see others as human beings. It’s an act we do without thinking; it’s almost automatic. It can be the way we were raised, or it can simply be the result of the fast-paced, high-tech, atomzed culture we live in. The reason doesn’t really matter.

We see something we don’t like and we have an emotional reaction. We feel anger. We feel annoyance. We feel fear. We need to put a face to that emotion, and that’s when human nature kicks in: we see not an individual with a complex assortment of feelings and experiences, but a representative of a group. Judging that group becomes easy.

Cynical people, especially certain politicians, are aware of this and exploit it. A worrying trend in our age is the open use of racially-charged language to win votes. It is incredibly cynical; it puts individual ambition over the common good, a direct violation of what public service is supposed to be. It’s especially disgusting when done by people who want to work in education.

Countless studies have clearly shown the lifelong damage caused by children who experience racism. I’m not talking about hurt feelings. I’m talking about psychological injury that is proven to severely harm academic and professional success. It makes it more likely for a child to have behavioural issues, problems making friends, struggles concentrating, you name it. Victims of prejudice are more likely to be bullied. As if that wasn’t enough, recent studies are even showing a link between experiencing prejudice and lifelong health problems — physical health problems.

In other words, the consequences of prejudice are real. It affects real human lives. We have to fight it whenever possible. It’s not about censoring speech or enforcing political correctness — it’s about protecting children.

We’re all human beings. I will always oppose racism, just like I will always oppose homophobia, transphobia, sexism, sectarianism, ableism — all of it. We must accept and embrace one another’s humanity. That includes everyone’s humanity, even those whose views we don’t like.

Because we’re all in this together, and school trustee represent all members of the community.