Racism: Stereotyping is yet another form of racism. Stop it!

By Teenaz Javat

William Butler Yeats, the Irish writer, said, “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.”

Bringing his quote to life are students at one Toronto-area public school, who, with the encouragement and guidance of their teacher were so fired up that they went on to win a national video competition under the Racism Stop it! campaign.

An initiative of the federal government, the campaign was sponsored by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Part of March 21 initiative against racial discrimination, it was open to students across the country between 12 and 20 years. They were expected to create a video about their take on eliminating racism.

Ten winning videos were chosen to be broadcast on national television. The grade eight students of Sir Alexander Mackenzie Senior Public School in Toronto did their school, their city and their province proud by winning this competition for 2009. Their video Are You Sure? was the only winning video from Ontario.

The class got involved when their teacher, Carrie Schoemer, saw a notice on a website about workshops being offered by the National Film Board to assist schools in entering the contest. Having taught grade eight for over five years, Schoemer is an advocate of human rights.

“I feel very passionate about social justice and I am always looking for ways to engage students in fighting against inequalities in our society,”

To this end Schoemer submitted a request for the workshop. Two facilitators from the National Film Board came to her classroom to teach students about how to create effective messages using video editing software iMovie, and how to write their own original music using GarageBand software.

“Students created the entire video themselves, from story board to execution,” says the tech savvy Schoemer.

“Video technology in itself is a great teaching tool that can help kids speak out about important topics. And in this case they have done just that.”

Her students have lived up to her expectations. Inspired and encouraged, they split up into small groups and brainstormed about how they were going to get their message across…in less than a minute.

They tackled several positive and negative stereotypes that plague our society like:

  • Black people are good at basketball.
  • Asians are good at math.
  • White people can't dance.
  • Racism doesn’t exist in Canada.

Here is a smattering of what some of them had to say about their creation in their own words.

“Right off the bat we as a class wanted to tackle stereotyping. We felt it was as bad as racism. In fact, it is one of those forms of racism that just slides under the radar. There are two types of stereotyping, positive and negative. Both are wrong: positive stereotypes make you feel like you have to live up to this expectation just because you are a certain race. Negative stereotypes are when your race gets put down. In today’s society racism is everywhere you go on TV shows, in the office, even in your own home. This is of concern to me. Shows like Family Guy, American Dad, and especially South Park all contribute to the problem.” Juenelle Barkie, Production team

“Although I was born in Canada, my mother grew up in Africa. I have been wearing a hijab since grade five. Our society should look past each other’s colours, languages, cultures and backgrounds. Acting in this video defines me, as I think we have sent the message across.” Farzana Hatia, Actor

“I was one of the Asian students who are supposed to be "good" in math. My class hopes that people young or old can realize that some jokes have a deeper meaning than what you're really trying to express. We can combat racism by understanding different backgrounds and appreciating that we have so many different diverse cultures. Would you want your world comprised only of people from your race? You can probably agree that it's pretty boring.” Dan Nguyen, Actor

“Our video idea came from everyone in this class, even some people that weren't in the video. When we made the video, we filmed some scenes first and we edited putting it all together.” Isabella Wu, Art director “After picking out the best footage, the editors took their iMovie program and started editing very fast because we didn't have a lot of time. Our hard work did pay off and we got a lot of media attention.” Eric Lee, Production team

“We edited the clip by reducing the time to one minute and adding features. I felt happy that the school won the competition because it was one of ten schools in all of Canada that won.” Douglas Chan, Production team

“We got the idea from TV shows and daily lives, which have stereotyping. I directed the entire production. When I heard that we had won, I was excited and happy because five of us actually got to go to Ottawa for free. Our class mates voted for those who had contributed the most towards producing the video. I and four others made the trip to Ottawa for the award ceremony.” Rachel Zhang, Director

“Once we decided on the idea we kept adding on to the final product. Then, we made a storyboard, after which we started filming. I was one of the editors of the video. We had about 20 video clips, and we edited using iMovie. It feels slightly rewarding that we won a national competition.” Kevin Mok, Editor

“I would like to thank the experts from the film board who helped translate our idea into a film.” Saiss Parthipan, Editor

“Our classroom discussion was on how to produce the video by integrating popular racist comments that are used in everyday life. My role in this video was a black child not good at basketball, breaking the myth that every black person is good at it.” Tionna Kinglocke-Christian, Actor

“I hope our video, when running as public service announcements; will inspire people to help make a change in our community.” Amreen Kadwa, Production team.

“I feel so good about winning this competition because I have accomplished something big. I hope people will learn that stereo-typing is a form of racism and that people shouldn't do this. Be more aware of what you're saying to people.” Kadeja Hylton, Actor.

CNM

This story is part of the Infoblock "Common Problems Fitting In and How to Deal With Them". Read other stories.