Chapter 9 of Ijeoma Oluo’s awesome So You Want to Talk About Race focuses on how systemic racism in institutions like school create a recipe for failure for non-whites.
This is one of the largest comprehension divides for Canadians trying to understand America. Several things are going on.
- We don’t have the same racist history as the USA does.
- We think #1 means we’re better than America, or better off at least.
- We colonized, exploited and tried hard to wipe out the indigenous people here too.
- We think #3 is all settled and as prime ministers have said, we’re a colonizing people. All good.
- We are deeply deluded.
In BC, virtually all of the province is on unceded, ancestral, traditional territory of the First Nations. in 1763, King George III [whom the Americans understandably hate] issued a Royal Proclamation asserting that the crown can’t take any land except by winning a war, buying it, or signing a treaty. That’s why most of Canada is covered by treaties. For a variety of reasons, none of them good, they never got around to cover much more than a few percent of BC.
What does this mean now? For one glaring example, it means that Canada has created a perpetual underclass of First Nations, Metis and Inuit people. And from what I’ve seen as a high school and university teacher, is pathetically low graduation and post-secondary participation rates: a consequence of how much our culture is still steeped in systemic racism. And when we look at incarceration rates, we see First Nations people disproportionately represented.
And in a quarter century we’ve focused on getting those graduation rates up, as if that is the thing that is the cause of the problem, not the symptom.
Oluo’s chapter 9 shows us a human face of the school-to-prison pipeline, from an American perspective. Our job in Canada is to look for how the same dynamic is showing up in our communities. Because we can’t start fixing the problem of systemic racism if we continue thinking we don’t have America’s race problems.