Aug. 21, 2023
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable: Taylor Institute launches new Anti-Racism in Teaching and Learning badge this fall
Where were you when you heard what happened to George Floyd in the summer of 2020? It was a pivotal moment in recent history that prompted marches, protests and calls to action for individuals and organizations alike, including the University of Calgary. It also illuminated what some students may experience during their academic careers.
“Students may not be experiencing something as violent, but they are experiencing harm on different levels within their teaching and learning spaces, in the form of bullying, harassment, or racist statements,” says Dr. Fouzia Usman, PhD, educational development consultant at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning (TI).
“Within post-secondary education, we serve students from historically underrepresented groups including 2SLGBTQIA+, Indigenous Peoples, Black students, persons with disabilities, and students who identify from other racialized groups. There are inequity gaps that have existed for many years and anti-racism is a way to address that.”
Usman is the lead of the Anti-Racism in Teaching and Learning badge coming out of the TI, focused on academic staff with at least five years of teaching experience at the post-secondary level. The badge is a response to what Usman calls a “thirst for knowledge” in this space, something that has continued to grow, especially since 2020.
“We have offered workshops and created an online learning module, but it seemed like more was needed by the campus community,” she says. “We then thought to have a dedicated course for all faculties focused specifically on anti-racism in teaching and learning, using critical race theory as a conceptual framework to explore anti-racism.”
Anti-racism or ‘not racist’
So, what’s the difference between being anti-racist and just not racist?
“Anti-racism is a verb. It’s action-oriented and calls to actively work against attitudes, behaviours, patterns, policies and laws that perpetuate oppressive and racist ideologies,” Usman says. “Non-racism takes an apathetic stance — it’s neutral. To combat racism, one must be anti-racist as opposed to being ‘non-racist.’ Anti racism calls for action, to dismantle and disrupt systems manifesting racist ideologies.”
Usman takes care to note that anti-racism does not equate to anti-white. “It’s a critique of a system of oppression that privileges whiteness, not a critique of white individuals or populations.”
Disrupting systems of power
“Something I’ve learned is if you’re not feeling uncomfortable with the work, you’re not doing it right,” says Usman. “Participants enrolling in the Anti-Racism Badge for Teaching and Learning will need to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, by being exposed to multiple perspectives, reflecting on whiteness, and engaging in critical self-reflection.”
Badge participants can expect disruption, particularly of preconceived notions, since that’s one aspect of what anti-racism calls for. Usman notes these are conversations that don’t normally come up organically in post-secondary spheres.
Modules include exploring whiteness, intersectionality, and racism as a system of oppression in post-secondary teaching and learning, as well as specific modules on anti-Asian racism, anti-Black racism and Islamophobia. Participants will examine anti-racist pedagogies by interrogating the role of whiteness in perpetuating oppression, followed by applied learning around decentring whiteness and taking an explicitly anti-racist approach to course development and design.
“Student feedback has shown us that students have had, or are having, these experiences,” she says.
“It’s one way we can look at how we are affecting student learning experiences and student mental health and wellness. If we are to do this, we must do it right.”
Expressions of interest for participation in the Anti-Racism in Teaching and Learning badge are open until Aug. 25. The first cohort will begin on Sept. 19.