“White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, The Remix: Revised and Updated Edition” by Tim Wise provided me with a lot of questions. When I first started this book it was during my summer before my third year of university started at the University of Regina in the Faculty of Education, but I did not finish the book until the first few weeks into my internship, starting my fourth year.
I am not a slow reader, but I could not finish this book in one go, like I do with most books. This one had me starting, and after a few chapters needing a change, needing to reflect. This process continued until I finished the book, more than a year later.
I have no idea what made me pick up this book in Chapters, and decide to buy it, maybe it was the conversation with friends earlier that day about White Privilege. Or maybe it was because I was in a faculty that focuses on diversity and eliminating the society norms, yet being from a small town in Saskatchewan I had until that moment put little thought into my own thoughts on white privileged and racism.
This book gives evidence that racism is taught not generic but that it is not always taught intentionally. Simple things like crossing the street when someone of a different race is walking towards you, or clutching your purse tighter, or turning away when someone of a different skin color looks at you. We are not born to notice skin color but we watch how other people behave, we learn from watching, we learn from overhearing, and we learn without ever realizing what we are learning. University was my first real experience getting to know people that had a non-white ethnic background. It was also the first time I ever seen racism happen to someone I knew. I grew up hearing thoughtless comments about Indigenous people, or Africans, or Asians, this list can continue hitting almost any person who is considered a minority in Canada, but I never realized the impact that they had on a person. The more I branched out my group of friends, the more I seen out racist Canadians can be, and the more I seen how I have an unspoken amount of white privilege. “White Like Me”, gave me a chance to think about the experiences that I have faced, and take notice in other issues around me, without even realizing it I had (and in some cases still struggle with) my own racial stereotypes and racist thoughts.
The more I read the book, the angrier and more frustrated I became, because there seems to be such little progress happening in the world, it may be directed towards a different group of people but their is still bigotry, and hatred directed at people who are different than the majority, as if it is acceptable to judge people because their voices are quieter or lesser in quantity than the majority populations.
Changing the way people think, especially when they are unaware of their own inner thoughts, opinions and struggles, is challenging. It starts with their education, it starts with the lessons they receive both in and out of the classroom. Having students identify their own values, and prejudices is hard at a university level, it is way harder with middle years students, because not only do you have to take into account the students beliefs but also the parents, grandparents, and all of the people who influence the students. Open discussions, honesty, and personal thoughts play a part in the lessons, but keeping your own emotions in check because the students are still learning and may have conflicting feelings, even more so if no one, or very few people in their communities are of a minority.
Besides using this book to talk about racism in society, it can be linked to the colonialist history of North America, using stereotypes and assimilation to make connections with Treaty education, and struggles that are found in Canada. This book may not be based in Canada, but similar beliefs are found between the United States and Canada, meaning that material in this book still carries wait when used in the right context.
Reading this book gave me a starting place for Social Justice, but it also made me more passionate about teaching students about social justice and they role in society. Teaching students that their voices matter, that they can make a difference is a starting point for students. One of the reasons I got into Middle Years Education is because someone once told me, “if you get middle years students passionate about something they will plan to change the world, and if you encourage and support them, one day they might”, early primary grades are sometimes to young to understand bias and unjust situations, while secondary students have seen too much failure to believe the world can be changed, this only gets stronger with age.
At some point I will likely re-read this book, because I am still learning, I am still gathering more questions, and I am still wanting answers, ideas, and solutions to work with problems that occur in classrooms, communities, and in society. How can I preach the idea of a diverse society? I am not sure if I have a full understanding of white privilege, racism, and internalized biases. I am not sure if I will ever fully understand, but I am willing to keep learning, to keep researching, and to do my best to be aware of my own biases, the more I understand the more I can work on teaching students to question society norms, and to think about their biases and actions.