British Columbia

Educators should play a more important role in the fight against racism, says UBC professor

University of British Columbia education professor Michelle Stack says educators — particularly white educators — have to step up in the fight against racism.

'We’ve got to get over our discomfort ... I think that we would end up learning more from each other."

A University of British Columbia student wants to break down the barriers preventing students from seeking out mental health services on campus. (Canadian Press) (Canadian Press)

A University of British Columbia professor is calling on her fellow educators to step up in the fight against hate and racism.

Michelle Stack, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Studies at UBC, says everyone has a role to play when combating racism, but teaching lends a significant opportunity to question subtle, institutional forms of racism and racist thinking.

"Even when I'm reading books to my children the main characters are white, the superheroes are white," she said. "We have to ask 'how are people of colour represented? How are black people represented? How are Indigenous people represented?'"

Stack says that's a perfect opportunity to start talking about race.

"When children are noticing differences, it's not being afraid of that, but talking about it and not putting judgment and looking on themselves," she said.

She notes that talking about race can be uncomfortable — particularly for white educators.

"Sometimes I hear comments like this isn't my issue from [white educators] or from white educators who are really anxious about it," she said.

"But we've got to get over our discomfort ... Figuring out how we talk about the discomfort of racism ... is nothing compared to what it's like for parents that are scared about the racism their children are going to face in school."

Educational changes

As for concrete changes, Stack suggested the education system can look at making curriculum changes to include more authors from racialized backgrounds, focus on less-well known historical figures and alternate histories, and champion leaders from underrepresented communities.

She used an example of a high school student who pointed out that every single author on her current high school reading list was white.

"There are so many authors that could be on the reading list. I looked at it and I saw her reading list is pretty similar to my Grade 10 English class. That was quite some time ago," she said. "We do need to look at that."

Ultimately Stack said its important to acknowledge that it's not "just white people that have knowledge worth talking about."

"I think that we would end up learning more from each other. We wouldn't be so impoverished in the way we think about knowledge. Everyone would benefit."

With files from The Early Edition