I consider myself to be an open minded individual. I also consider myself to be an educator dedicated to helping all students succeed and learn regardless of race, gender, age, sex, orientation, ability or disability and the list goes on. Within working with students, we meet their families, their support systems and we get to see a small glimpse into their world. Each person, each student is different and this is a wonderful thing. Some of us have easier lives than others, and some of us face more challenges and struggles.
Racism: “the belief that races have distinctive cultural characteristics determined by hereditary factors and that this endows some races with an intrinsic superiority over others.”
Discrimination: “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favour of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than an individual merit.”
I find it unfortunate that racism and discrimination still exist today. It is hard to hear about these in the news, about people and children getting hurt.
We can educate our students and children about racism, sexism, discrimination, culture, race, ageism, abilities, disabilities etc. We can design lessons, teach morals and show videos, share stories and hope that our students catch on and be leaders, ones who stand up for others and want to make a change for the better. But how can they truly understand these concepts? How can they know what it feels like, how do you know they really understand?
Sometimes, you need to experience it to truly “get” it…
The other night at work, I had an experience that I will not forget. It taught me a lesson and made me think, but also in the end left me a little disappointment.
On the weekends, I work at one of the hotels as the night auditor. The other night, I had a First Nation woman come in at 3 am wanting a hotel room. So I made the reservation and we encountered a problem when she wanted to pay for it. I am still relatively new and don’t quite know everything yet. The lady wanted to do a cash deposit instead of pre-authorizing a credit card. I explained I didn’t know how to do this, and that I was the only one there at the time. She said she was tired, had a long drive and wanted to go to bed. She insisted that I phone my manager and figure out how to do it. So eventually we got her checked into her room.
I was trying my best to please her and while she was talking to me, but I haven’t felt as much of a “failure” or a disappointment to her than I have in a while. I was irritated, sad, and she took away all of my self esteem. I can only imagine this is how First Nations peoples and people of other cultures feel when “white” people discriminate and are do not show respect to others. I only felt this way for a short while, I couldn’t imagine being a child and experiencing this continuously.. We often take our “White Privilege” for granted. We do not realize what we have until someone takes it away from us. I don’t think one group should have privilege over the other, but sadly this is how it is. This can be sen more in some areas than others..
I also mentioned that I was disappointed.. This comes from having to go upstairs at 4 am and tell the lady and the guests she did not mention she had with her to be quiet and to keep their voices down. She did not let me know how many guests she had in her room, which is not the end of the world. But I really did not appreciate her telling me she was tired and then here there was a party going on in her room. I began thinking “just be truthful” and “please, don’t fit into the stereotypes society places on people.” Sometimes our thinking causes us to judge others quickly and I wish I did not do this but I did. I want all people to succeed, do well and to not feel discriminated against.
I hope one day that I can translate my experience into a learning opportunity for my students.