Learning about theories of Whiteness and anti-oppressive education and practice is challenging but rewarding work. Ideally, it will alter one's perspective of self, one's students, and the classroom. This module will introduce concepts of anti-oppressive theories, with the intent to create self-awareness and to begin the process of building an anti-oppressive practice in your personal and professional life.
Anti-oppressive education is about developing critical consciousness (Friere, 1970). Critical consciousness focuses on achieving an in-depth understanding of social and political contradictions. In essence, it is an awakening process to the social, economic, cultural, educational and spiritual inequities and disparities caused by colonialism. As Paulo Friere (1970) states in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, critical consciousness is being able to "intervene in reality in order to change it."(1)
Becoming an anti-oppressive educator means having a deep committment to change and having the skills and courage to engage in changing curriculum, pedagogy, classroom management and school culture. An anti-oppressive educator will create a safe space for the oppressed to speak, to be heard and to be honoured. Additionally, an anti-oppressive classroom is expected to be different. It ought to be uncomfortable as white students begin to unlearn what they have been taught through their previous learning experiences.
Anti-oppressive Practice will require you to:
- have a comprehension of basic theories of whiteness,
- have the ability to conceive of whiteness as a social construct and an ability to critically reflect on one's own 'race' as a social construction,
- perceive the differences on power and privilege in general Canadian society conferred upon those who are whites (or 'pass' as white), and
- analyze how your own subject position has an impact on others in your professional (and personal) lives.
The following video features Tim Wise, who is an anti-racism educator and the author of 7 books on racism in the United States. Although his discussion focuses primarily on the African American experience in the United States, some of this information is transferable to Canada and Indigenous peoples.
After watching the video ask yourself the following questions:
- How did I feel while I watched the video? Why was I feeling like that?
- Tim Wise is a white male academic who has made a career on anti-racism, is that white privilege at work?
Putting Knowledge into Practice
The path toward becoming an anti-oppressive educator and practitioner is not an easy one to follow. All human beings will revert to what is familiar. We all have a default mode — a place where we are comfortable and that place in our minds is our cultural comfort zone. Unfortunately, that comfort zone is a place of either oppressing others or being oppressed. As mentioned previously, anti-oppressive practice and decolonization is challenging work, personally and professionally, but it can also be rewarding.
This module presented a snapshot of Colonization, Colonialism, Decolonization and Anti-oppressive work. This is a beginning — a starting point for your journey in helping to change the society and world that we live in. Change begins with the self and from there you will "intervene in reality in order to change it."(1)