We recognize both the influence and the potential of the formal education system, as well as the many anti-racism initiatives in workplaces and communities, and want to build on that potential. The CARED Collective has engaged in extensive discussion and consideration of the terms "Anti-Racism Education" and "Anti-Racism Training."
While recognizing the very significant impacts of individuals working within the formal ‘education system', we believe that historically the formal education system has often functioned to reinforce rather than dismantle racism. This has been aptly demonstrated in analyses of how specific racialized groups have been misrepresented (or absent altogether) in the curriculum, in teacher education, in positions of authority and decision-making within the system. Studies of racism experienced by racialized ‘students' and ‘teachers' in the system have demonstrated that it is characterized by silence, exclusion, subtle behaviours and overt acts of violence. And, increasingly, anti-racism has also been demonstrated in critical analyses of whiteness.
Moreover, racism in the formal education system is not only about ‘who' is in the system, who holds positions of authority in the system, or about curriculum content. While these absolutely are crucial factors, they are not the only considerations. It is not only a matter of What is taught, but How. (See for example, the important work of Paulo Friere, bell hooks, and others; see References.
The Words We Choose and Why
We resist any conception of ‘education' as hierarchical, as reinforcing assumptions of the ‘teacher' (or ‘trainer') as the ‘expert' with the only valid or authoritative knowledge in the classroom or workshop space. We reject notions of "students" (or ‘trainees') as objects to be ‘taught' rather than as individuals with knowledge, experiences, and insights to bring to the learning community, regardless of their age. For us, a troubling hierarchy is suggested in the terms ‘educator' and ‘trainer'-which imply an action, the exercise of power, directed at an object without ability or knowledge or insight (‘the uneducated,' ‘the student,' the ‘employee/trainee').
Relatedly, we oppose the assumption that the ‘classroom' (from the kindergarten space through university) or the ‘workshop space' are inherently free and ‘democratic' spaces. Rather, educational institutions, classrooms, and workplaces/workshops are as fraught with relations of power, race, gender, class, sexuality, and ability as every other social space, even though each space has its particular context and dynamics. Individuals don't leave their gender, class, race, sexuality, ability/disability, knowledge or experience (or assumptions and biases) at the door when they enter a ‘classroom,' a workplace, or a learning community.
We also believe (profoundly, and vehemently) that ‘learning' extends far beyond the ‘classrooms' situated within formal education system and far beyond workshop spaces. Racism occurs in every aspect of our society, as can anti-racism action, and learning. We therefore choose the terms "learning communities" and "learning spaces" over "classroom" and "workshop." For us, learning communities include: family gatherings, daily family interactions, friendships, social communities (such as clubs, teams, spiritual communities), neighbourhoods, workplaces, worshops, and formal ‘classroom' settings. (There are many more examples.)
Why we Choose the Term "Anti-Racism Facilitator
Our philosophy of anti-racism learning, then, rests on the view that an anti-racism ‘facilitator' must see him/her self as a participant in the social relations that reinforce or dismantle racism. She/he must be aware of how her or his social location, and race (and class, gender, ability, sexuality, nationality/culture, language) impact not only what she/he does in the ‘learning space,' how others respond to her/him, but impact his/her life as well.
Who is an Anti-Racism Facilitator?
An anti-racism facilitator does bring experience and knowledge to the learning community and facilitates the collaborative exploration of racism and its impacts. An anti-racism facilitator is not an ‘expert' but a co-learner who genuinely values the contributions and insights of every person in the learning space.
An anti-racism facilitator is a constant learner. An anti-racism facilitator supports the unlearning of racism in all aspects of his/her life. An anti-racism facilitator recognizes that anti-racism is not a single ‘subject' that can be separated off and ‘taught' in discrete pieces, or in a single ‘exercise'; anti-racism is a way of seeing, and being, in all aspects of life.
Our invitation to you: our expectations of Your learning:
We invite (and expect) you to be someone who recognizes the value of and is committed to anti-racism.
Our experience (and the research) demonstrate that effective anti-racism work can only be accomplished by engaging in a long-term, rewarding process of learning, listening, and ‘un-learning' the taken-for-granted assumptions that reinforce and reproduce racism. We expect that if you do not feel this way at first, that you will come to see the how crucial it is that you do the necessary self-learning before trying to engage in anti-racism work with others (e.g., in classrooms, in your workplace/various communities). As discussed below and throughout this site, this foundational work is necessary not only to be effective, but in order to minimize RISK to you and those you are working and learning with.
While we address this in more detail in other sections of this resource, by "risk" we are referring to the ways in which members of anti-racism learning communities may be exposed to or revictimized by racism through well-intentioned but inexperienced (or unself-aware) attempts to facilitate anti-racism learning. In other words, one can expect that in anti-racism learning and the exposure and discussion of racism, racist statements may be made; racist behaviours may occur. This is not surprising given the systemic and often-unconscious/normalized nature of racist. If an anti-racism facilitator is not aware of these risks and is not prepared with the knowledge to recognize these, and strategies to address them, members of the learning community can not only become disinterested or frustrated, but re-victimized by racism! Throughout this resource we provide the benefit of our experience (e.g., our mistakes and our learning), in order to support you in creating a supportive, collaborative anti-racism learning experience. (See Risks.)
Rejecting the terms Anti-Racism "Exercise," Anti-Racism "Activity," and ‘Handout'
We recognize that you/we do need information, materials, and strategies with which to engage in anti-racism work/learning.
However, often, and particularly in workshop and classroom settings, the terms ‘exercise' and ‘activity' are used to describe anti-racism work. We resist these terms because we feel that they minimize (and belittle) the very serious realities of racism, and the long-term, continuing, and the deep learning and reflection that are necessary to anti-racism (for facililators and participants).
The words ‘activity' and ‘exercise'--perhaps because they are so over-used in so many settings in contemporary discourse--imply that racism and anti-racism are external to each of us, that anti-racism can be an ‘activity' that we simply ‘add' to our list of daily things to do, and that supplying a ‘handout' will suffice. This is related to the problems with how ‘diversity' work is conducted, as if one merely needs to ‘add' a cultural component to the existing system and all will be well, rather than engage in genuine systemic transformation. This problematic method/perspective is often critiqued as the ‘add-on,' the ‘one-off,' ‘the song-and-dance,' or the ‘add culture and stir' approach. (Difference between Multiculturalism/Diversity.)
Because anti-racism is an active process that involves continuing learning and reflection, we have chosen the term ‘Learning Action' over ‘exercise' and ‘activity' for materials we are providing.
is a way that you can engage others in anti-racism learning;
has a critical/theoretical foundation and particular goals;
includes accurate information, strategies, responses you can expect, and suggestions for further learning;
is an incremental part of the process that YOU must engage in before sharing with others, in order for you to be more effective and to minimize risk to others;
cannot be used effectively in isolation or without appropriate context.
The Benefits of our Web-based Resource:
We have chosen to create a web-based resource, and in a specific way, for a range of reasons that encompass technical practicalities (ease of updating and expanding), socio-economic realities and possibilities (accessibility, dissemination, potential interactivity), and philosophical foundations based on extensive experience and research.
Reflecting the Process:
Anti-racism learning is not a linear process. Each anti-racism learner has her/his own areas of strength and areas of challenge; each one of us needs to revisit various aspects of our lives and experiences as we grow and learn. The advantage of a web-based resource is the ease with which you can revisit certain materials even as you move through your own process.
Guiding your Learning/Minimizing Risks to you and others:
We trust, and support, your interest in engaging in anti-racism work. And we trust that you would never want to put individuals you are learning with at risk. Nor do we want you to be in a position of risk.
As we have already stressed, we insist on the process of self-learning for those who wish to engage in anti-racism learning with others, particularly if you are in a position of authority in relation to these individuals.
We have structured this site in order to minimize the potential risks to you and your learning colleagues if you engage in this work before you are ready. It is designed to encourage the deep learning and reflection that will support you in being a more effective anti-racism learner/facilitator. In other words, the Learning Actions, the materials you may wish to use in your particular learning space, will only be found by working through the necessary, foundational materials.