- How has your upbringing/schooling shaped how you you “read the world?” What biases and lenses do you bring to the classroom? How might we unlearn / work against these biases?
- Which “single stories” were present in your own schooling? Whose truth mattered?
As I grew up I learned a lot of conflicting ideas towards my race from two different perspectives. I grew up learning in what seemed like two completely different worlds. On one side I was learning from my life on reserve and another side I was learning from my life in school – off reserve. I went to school in a small town that was situated near three reserves. The towns perspectives on First Nations people was either good or bad and usually what I saw was bad. In an area where there was a lot of tension about race I felt that the school tried their best to stay away from that type of learning. I had learned pretty much nothing about another race in school. In my schooling I learned that anything that is discomforting to learn or talk about is best untouched. I learnt in a very western and Eurocentric view and it had made me see the world in a “white” lens. We had often learned from a white perspective. In schools I learned that the only history or race worth learning about was that of the majority. When any other race was tossed into the equation it was never positive or in good light. I had found that within schools minorities or people of color are never represented and when they are it’s negative. What I learnt of different races including my own was that they were never seen in a good and fair lens. I would often go home and relay what I had learnt in school and my dad, with years of inflicted racism weighted on his shoulders, would always tell me “it’s because you’re Indian”. It wasn’t something that you should tell your daughter but it caused me to think about these two completely different worlds in which I lived and the two different perspectives that I was trying to see from. I would learn about the great explorer Christopher Columbus in schools and go home and learn about the sacred war chiefs that fought endlessly for their land while on the brink of starvation. I had constantly been torn between two lenses and had finally been taken over of that of the white.
We are filled with stereotypes from a young age and half the time we don’t even notice it. It’s not just race that we learn about through our upbringing/schooling that enforce these stereotypes it’s also binaries. I’ve learnt about what is acceptable and normal within society and what isn’t acceptable or normal. I learnt that through my teachers and society as a whole I had inherited their lenses. I found myself trying to be what they wanted me to be. I began trying my best to be someone else, someone who didn’t fit First Nation stereotypes. I tried my best to be a good student, sat quietly and did my work. I would learn that only certain content and information was worth learning and the rest of the material that was discomforting was not to be talked about. Prior to this class I would have been bringing a bias towards what looks like a good student and what does not. Prior to university I would have been bringing a bias toward my own race because of what I was taught growing up. It pains me to say this but I was never proud of who I was until I started attending University. It had taken me a long time to accept who I was and where I came from. I had realized that these stereotypes have stories behind them – stories about colonization, systematic racism, oppression, and white privilege.
Ultimately I’m growing and I’m changing. I would like to think that I don’t have bias lenses anymore but I know that that can’t be completely true. I’m not sure what biases I have until I find myself thinking in a way that is unfair. I can’t tell myself to not look through bias lenses, I can only promise myself that I will recognize when I do and when I do I will correct myself. I understand that our journeys are never fully filled with knowledge and with that I know that I will constantly be learning. I think that for myself to not see through my lenses that I unknowingly have because they have been embedded in my upbringing and education is going to take time. Individuals want to say that they’re not racist just like I want to say that I’m not bias but is that completely true? I think I would be lying to myself if I said yes. I can only promise that I will constantly be willing to correct myself as I grow. I will constantly be learning different perspectives so that I don’t have a narrow lens. I will work so that my lenses are always fair. I will always leave room for discomforting learning in my classroom because I know that I’m teaching what needs to be taught. I will thrive to achieve for my students to feel the way I never felt growing up. Proud of who they are and where they come from.