The React to Racism project, aimed at bringing Manitoba youth together to discuss racism and brainstorm solutions, consisted of an online contest, the React to Racism Youth Challenge, which encouraged youth to speak up against racism and discrimination through artistic expression, and the React to Racism Youth Forum, which took place in Winnipeg on March 21, 2013. These two activities were built around the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, when thousands of people around the world participate in a global discussion to end racism.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) partnered with the University of Winnipeg, Newcomers Employment and Education Development Services Inc. (NEEDS), the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba (TRCM), Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata, Seven Oaks School Division, the Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties (MARL), Ka Ni Kanichihk, Manitoba Education, and the Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination (CMARD).
The React to Racism Youth Challenge garnered 70 submissions from individuals and groups in Manitoba under the categories of artwork, the writing, and multimedia. The winners and runners-up in each category include:
Artwork: Winner, Nicole Woodland for Equality and Runner-up, Cody Koloski for Diversville
Written: Winner, Alexandra Doherty for “Anita’s Story” and Runner-up, Juzlynn Remetilla for “The Colour of My Skin”
Multimedia: Winner, Deep Boyzz for their music video “One People” and Runner-up, the Grade 10 Broadcast/Media Arts Class at Tec Voc High School for the short documentary “Seven Words”
The React to Racism Youth Forum was designed to engage youth in an interactive dialogue to meet the following objectives:
- Recognizing racism, both individual and institutional,
- Learning the language to talk about racism,
- Developing concrete steps to use when encountering racism in their lives, and
- Gaining the confidence to continue the discussion in their classrooms.
Participants in the forum came from several school divisions across Manitoba and youth-centred organizations.
The overall aim of the dialogue was to respond to the question “what can we do to end racial discrimination?” This was accomplished through facilitated small group sessions, lead by members of the Youth Peacebuilding Project at Menno Simons College, and other volunteer facilitators. The discussions provided a comfortable, safe and respectful environment to enable youth participation. Key outcomes of this dialogue brought to light that racism in schools is a real and current issue in many of the students’ lives.
Suggested strategies for reacting to racism included the creation of mentorship opportunities and student dialogue clubs. These clubs would help students recognize racism and stereotypes as well as create a safe space for students to be themselves and discuss racism in a constructive way. Participants said that it was hard to lecture friends who use racist language and that storytelling was a more effective method of knowledge transference regarding the hurt and shame that racism causes. Students developed the term “respectful curiosity” as a way to engage newcomers or individuals of different cultural backgrounds in order to foster a more welcoming environment. Students acknowledged that some racist remarks and jokes are the product of misunderstanding. The best response to racism is to ask the individual why they think that way and explain that racist jokes are not funny. Finally, participants indicated the need for additional information about institutional or systemic racism.