On our Monday seminar (October 20th, 2014), we had some updates about our assignments then shifted our gears into learning in “crisis” discussion. We were supposed to start with the “Flight of the Hummingbird” but due to technical issues, we moved on to discoursing colour blindness through an activity. It is the same activity that Mike showed to my first education class in Spring 2013—ECS 110—and the same activity that Michelle used in my ECS 100 class last Fall 2013, wherein we try our best in sorting people according to their “race”. My honest first response is “not again!” Why? Because I’ve been having this activity in my every other semestre in school. Is it tiring? I’m not sure, but I want to express the two sides of my feelings towards this activity.
The first side is highly related to this week’s reading wherein Kumashiro discussed learning in “crisis”, because I think that I fall into that “crisis” as we once again did this activity. When I encountered this activity for the first time in spring of 2013, I was one of those students who easily categorizes these people and had fun while doing so. However, by debriefing the activity, I’ve come to notice and question myself why categorizing people were easy and fun? I learned that it was part of our subconscious mind to categorize the people that we meet every day—whether in hallway, in coffee shop, or in washroom—because these judgement are from structural racism. From then on, I always try to be aware of how I subconsciously see people. This is the reason why I felt uncomfortable when Michelle used this activity again on our ECS 100 seminar. I felt that by doing the activity, we are giving voice to our subconscious mind; that we are giving freedom to our self to audibly judge these people by categorizing them as we perceive them because we are not alone—that there are other people around us who will help us and support us on how we categorize them. More than this, the class seemed to have fun trying hard where to put those people. We tried hard digging what features and/or characteristics can be associated with certain cultures, convince ourselves by justifying why we put them in certain boxes, and laughed at how much we failed at categorizing them. On the other hand, some of our answers are correct. One of my classmates said, “I knew she’s white even she has that afro”. This means that those correct answers just proved that the features we have previously associated with them are true. Michele apologized at the end of the class if she has somehow offended me. However, she didn’t offend me; it just felt uncomfortable how we did it. Maybe it felt uncomfortable because it wasn’t the first time that I’ve encountered the activity. Maybe I’m just thinking too deep and didn’t caught the main objective of the activity—because I already learned that our assumptions in categorizing people is wrong and I hope that the activity is not just about that again. As I fathom this crisis while writing this blog, I remembered Kumashiro’s Figure 2 of alternative view of learning (2008, p. 25) from Chapter 2: Preparing Teachers for Crisis. I smile and thought that what I’ve experienced may be the bottom emoticon.
Likewise, having the sorting activity for the third time offered me another piece of crisis to digest throughout the lesson. Audrey asked us to gather up in the front to see the images better, so we did. This time, it’s partially different though. Before starting the activity she asked us if we are considered racist by doing the activity. One of my classmates—I think it’s Cris—answered, “No, because we are forced to do so”. With this answer, my mind once again dives into a deeper thinking, “Is this considered as a legit answer or is this considered as another concealer that we need to put on before categorizing these people? If so, then can we consider the people from previous years up to 1960 as not racist because they are forced to do so—by the knowledge that they attained which can also be considered as systemic racism? The room maintains its fair silence until Audrey once again asked the difference between recognizing racism and active racism. This question pulled my attention back into the room. It cannot be denied that we still have the subconscious thoughts of categorizing people that we encounter every day. However, recognizing that these still exist will help us how to deal with the problem. On the other hand, active racism is when people audibly proclaim their desire to keep the system of racism. With further discussions, the class began the activity of sorting people. I can feel how few participants wanted to voice out their ideas for categorizing—maybe because we are all learning in crisis at the moment. Nonetheless, the class managed to finish the activity. I heard several explanations and notions of how and why we identify the people as we did. Certainly, we have no further information but the physical appearance that was offered to us. I remember the class assessing whether to put a man into the category of American Indian or Black because the man was “too black” to be an Asian. Being an Asian, I wanted to say that not all Asian have “medium-light” skin as Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc. I think people forget that Asia is a big continent that also covers people from modern Middle East and South East Asia who has darker skin colour than the former nationalities. However, I think I was too shocked by this notion that I wasn’t able to speak my ideas when I should have done/said something.
The next activity is a discussion shared by our staff groups. Elisa and I talked about how colonialism built the concept of superiority of races and its effects to the countries it conquered. Soon, we accepted Audrey to join the discussion in our group. We then talked about how Canadians are different from Americans; that we link ourselves to the notion of Mosaic—a beautiful masterpiece created from multiple pieces—while American is a melting pot. The conversation got better as we start questioning when do we consider ourselves as Canadians? This was a question I haven’t thought of and my mind offered two reflections for it. The first one claims that I am not yet a Canadian. Not yet because I don’t have my Canadian Citizenship yet; Not yet because I still want to consider myself as a Filipino and keeping that as my identity is a gratitude of where I came from. On the other hand, I can say partially yes. This is because I can say that I have adapted in living a Canadian lifestyle. Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that my family and I haven’t developed the same roots as deep as Audrey’s family did, or as deep as any of the settlers—who came from several years ago—have established.
Overall, I think that it is almost impossible to be colour blind as a result of the racism that developed throughout our history. Race is not biological but it is a social construction. It is a fiction that pretends to be real so we should have an open perception to recognize that it must not be endorsed. Going back to race’s connection to our history, we can see that it still exist because it portrays the cliché that a notion and/or a lie becomes reality when it is continuously mentioned. This means that racism gained its status in our society because many people grew learning that race is real—even though race is not real. Now, this becomes the reason why this topic is within our teacher education program. We are taught to see race and racism so we can act upon it and not allow the passive racism that conceals within our daily life. We learn to think about race so that we know how to teach anti-oppressive education despite of the differences in classes that we teach in our class. This will help me to be prepared and aware of how I teach curriculum—whether it is formal, hidden, null, etc.—which will help me to assist my students in their best ways of learning to achieve their potentials and goals in life. Now, this reminded me of the video of the “Flight of the Hummingbird” that I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. The fire in the forest can be seen as racism. It was strong and powerful and obviously could harm anyone. This is the reason why everyone else runs away and does not want to confront it. However, the hummingbird is like our program; it looks too little compared to the rest of the members and systems of our world. Nevertheless, it has been trying to put off the fire with its full strength. Racism conceals within the air that we breathe in the society and it is powerful enough to hurt anyone. However, our teacher education program is doing what it can to lessen the power of racism—and that’s by teaching us to confront it. Let’s stop denying that race still exists and start facing it because what we have is powerful enough to see it and stop it from harming anyone. Imagine it’s effects if we all become the hummingbird in the video clip. It will take more time to stop the wildfire, but let’s do what we can and see what happens next.