Studying last year in California, I was often praised for being a Canadian. I felt proud to be a citizen of a country that so many consider to be a peaceful and progressive utopia of acceptance, but I realized that the Canada they were thinking of is not a reality for many people here. My national identity perpetuates a false and harmful notion–that in Multicultural Canada, racism isn’t an issue. I don’t think it’s fair to continue to advertise Canada in this way, ignoring the at least 9 million Canadians who were victims of racism in 2017 .
Annette Henry, holder of the David Lam Chair in Multicultural Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia, reflects: “When only marginalized people are teaching about colonialism, systemic racism and white supremacy the burden is greater on them. Everyone needs to be involved in education” . This quote illustrates the responsibility that white people have to support those who are marginalized. As Annette Henry takes on this responsibility as a teacher, I take it on as a designer.
Proving that racism is (1) a problem, and (2) is hidden in Canada.
According to sociology professors Sean Hier and Singh Bolaria, racism is not natural, it is rather a human invention that has become real since people started using race as a hierarchical organizing principle . Since racism hasn’t always existed, there is no amount of racism that is normal or unavoidable. Showing that racism happens at all in Canada, says that there is a problem. However, in a 2017 survey, it was found that less than half of Canadians consider racism to be a serious problem .
Hidden racism is described by David Gillborn, Professor of Critical Race Studies at University of Birmingham, as “hidden beneath a veneer of normality,” while only crude and overt forms of racism are seen as problematic by most . Professor Rodney Coates explains these more disguised acts of (often systemic) racism are specifically dangerous because of their hidden nature and rationalization, as this provides an explanation that society is willing to accept .
We need to stop asking if racism is a problem here, and talk about ‘why’ it is a problem here.
With this project, I wanted to create an awareness campaign that would show the overwhelming amount of pain caused by racism, here in Canada, pointing at the excuse that multiculturalism gives us not to worry about it. My audience consists of Canadian adults who are unaware of the pervasiveness and abundance of racism here in Canada, and don’t consider it to be a serious issue here. There is a lot that isn’t taught in schools about Canada’s history (like slavery), which contributes to the perception of ourselves as kind, polite Canadians. My campaign does not serve to educate about these issues but to introduce to the viewer the idea that there may be things they don’t know about our history, things that our national story denies.
I think we have to be passionate and truly concerned about what will be done to stop this hate from continuing. Rather than trying to incentivize care, I am addressing what is getting in the way of change, which I believe to be unawareness, as addressing barriers to change is thought to be more a more successful tactic .
In order to reach my audience, I decided to use the video format to integrate multiple modes of communication into one experience. I am not concerned with reaching people who have experienced racism, as they are surely aware of its effects and prevalence in Canada. For that reason, I use words like “us” and “we” to speak to white people, who like me, are lucky enough never to have been victims of racism.
I have used existing documentation of Canadians talking about their experiences with racism and how it has affected them. It is important to see the long-lasting effects that racism has, as this re-enforces the significance of the issue. For example, M.S.M. who says “It shakes [your] whole idea that you have become a citizen of this country. In fact, you are told blatantly that you will never be a citizen no matter if you work, how productive you are in society you will never belong here. Suddenly you are again reminded that you are an outsider, and as an outsider, you don’t have the same rights” .
I hope to influence those who watch the video so that they walk away with something new to think about. If people take in the stories, information and implications about racism, and sit with it, carry it with them, revisit it, and talk about it with their peers, they will become actively engaged in the issue. I believe it is the responsibility of every Canadian to care that their fellow citizens are experiencing both crude and hidden racism, to see it, and support these Canadians. In order to improve race relations in Canada we must first acknowledge that there is a problem.
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