Critical race theory has a lot of people upset. In the United States some parents are calling for schools to ban critical race. They claim it distorts reality and invokes shame for white students.
This is not a new battle in the U.S. or Canada (remember when Prime Minister Harper said “this is not a time to commit sociology?” or when President Trump chastised President Obama for embracing Derrick Bell?). But it has picked up steam recently. Since January 2021, 42 states have introduced bills or taken other steps to restrict how teachers can discuss racism in the classroom and 17 states have given in to these demands.
But critical race theory is not an abstract concept — it is actually simply a reflection of us: of our unequal laws and systems already in place. It points out the history of our society and its ongoing inequalities. And asks us to look at issues as systemic instead of as individual problems.
Today we explore how applying critical race theory in classrooms across Canada helps both students and teachers.
Teresa Fowler, assistant professor of education at Concordia University of Edmonton, is one of our guests on today’s episode of Don’t Call Me Resilient. She said the reason we feel fear when it comes to discussing race is because:
“We’re afraid of what CRT is revealing … and that is our own bias. CRT is a mirror and we’re all afraid to look into it.”
Also joining us on today’s episode is Dwayne Brown. He is a PhD student in education at York University, and a Grade 7 teacher with the Toronto District School Board. Brown grew up in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood in Toronto, and studies mental health in relation to Black male student success.
Brown who teaches within Canada’s largest school board, where anti-racism curriculum is already embedded into the classroom (although with mixed application) said change begins at school:
It starts with our education system. It starts with the conversations that we have. And critical race theory as a tool, is definitely effective. It’s definitely necessary in order to interrogate the insecurity and the fragility that we have in our society. The social conditioning that we have all endured has to be exposed for what it is and held complicit in the fragility that it’s developed inside of each and every one of us.
Both Brown and Fowler use critical race theory in their classrooms every day, and say that it helps them to see and evaluate their own biases — while also making students feel truly included in their own education.
Please listen in and follow along in this fascinating conversation.
An unedited transcript of this episode is available here.
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ICYMI — Articles published in The Conversation
Series co-producers of this podcast are: Haley Lewis, assistant producer Vaishnavi Dandekar and sound producer Lygia Navarro. Jennifer Moroz is our consulting producer. Reza Dahya is our original sound designer. Lisa Varano is our audience development editor and Scott White is the CEO of the Conversation Canada. This podcast was produced with a grant for Journalism Innovation from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.