How My Upbringing Taught Me To ‘Read The World‘
My upbringing and schooling heavily reflected a colonized western society. When I was a child, we lived in North Central Regina. Considering the high crime rate of that area and my parents’ own biases, my parents did not allow me to play outside alone or with other children in the neighborhood (especially Indigenous children). They also sent me to a babysitter that lived in a much nicer area (primarily white families lived there) and I went to an elementary school that was close to my babysitter’s. At my elementary school, there were mainly upper-middle-class white families. For these reasons, I was conditioned to not trust and fear people that had a different skin color than me as a child. My childhood taught me to ‘read the world’ from a cynical standpoint where white people are nice and kind, and people of color are scary and criminals. This was the case because I had very limited interactions with people of color. It was not until I was a pre-teen where I truly developed friendships with people of color and had to learn to unlearn my biases.
The Biases I Bring to The Classroom and How I Unlearn Them
‘What biases do you bring to the classroom?’ is the hardest (or the most shameful) question I can be asked as an upper-middle-class, straight, English speaking, white woman. However, it is for this reason that it is important to be asked and answer these types of questions. I know that I hold racial biases that influence my perception of the world. I believe that the first step to unlearning my biases is to first acknowledge that they exist. Once I acknowledge that they exist, it is easier to identify when a biased thought or action occurs and I can then work to correct that thought or action.
My Single Stories
In Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk, she discusses the concept of ‘Single Stories’ or biases. In my schooling experience, we were taught from a white settler/western colonized perspective. I had limited interactions or experiences with other cultures and did not know much about other cultures as a result. It was not until I was in grade five or six that I began to learn more about Indigenous culture and genocide. Prior to learning about Indigenous culture, I had a single story about Indigenous people. This story was that all Indigenous people are alcoholics, drug addicts, poor and dangerous criminals. I learned this single-story because I was not exposed to Indigenous culture and the truth about Canadian history. This information was withheld from me for way too long, and it highlighted that white stories mattered more in my society than indigenous stories.