Around the Medicine Wheel
In this exercise, working with Ewan Cassidy, the project’s Indigenous research assistant, I assumed the role and developed the recommendations for instructors. In doing the work, I had my assumptions and bad habits challenged as I worked through the material and thought about the larger issues that this project represents. In our first meeting, I spoke to Ewan about some of the “proven ways” of developing curriculum using frameworks like Bloom’s Taxonomy.
In working through the possible approaches using Bloom’s Taxonomy, Ewan slumped back in his chair and said, “you just described every course I’ve ever taken.” I realized in that moment that this ‘same-old, same-old’ approach was not at all a good thing, and not what this project required. We worked to drop all of our previous assumptions and bad habits to build these materials, selecting Black, Indigenous, Persons of Colour (BIPOC) resources, methodologies and frameworks.
To locate the root cause of inherent systemic inequities in our daily interactions with institutions, and participation in cultural practices and pursuits, including academia, we must first understand the ideology of white supremacy. White supremacy is defined as the idea that those of European descent, people within the white race, are, somehow, superior to other races. In this ideology, white history and achievement is privileged above all other human activity. White supremacy has played an integral, foundational role in the formation of Canada driven by illegitimate, pseudo-legalistic and immoral philosophies of Manifest Destiny placing Christian European-descendants, their goals and desires above all others.
White supremacy is intrinsically interwoven into Canadian and North American cultures and institutions – we are (far too) slowly coming to the knowledge that this belief is embedded in the things we make, say, think and continuously do. This central precept of so-called mainstream North American cultural practice is so embedded, so ground into all of our minds that we, at times, barely notice it is there.
As a white settler, speaking directly to other white settlers who might be reading this, I know this stark declaration that the ideology of white supremacy underpins our society might cause you to recoil, to protest, or to feel offended. A statement like this, to a white settler, might be akin to a rude awakening from a deep sleep. To deny it, to refuse to accept it, is a wish to remain asleep. As Lee Maracle wrote: “Canadians have a myth about themselves, and it seems this myth is inviolable. They are innocent. They gave us things; they were kind to us. The reality is that Canada has seized vast land tracts, leaving only small patches of land specifically for us, as though they indeed owned everything and we had nothing, not even a tablespoon of dirt.””
As a social scientist and scholar with a quantitative bent (a methodology for which many of our current institutions of current “technopoly” favour above all else) the systemic racism driven by the ideology of white supremacy is a matter of settled science supported by a raft of almost, at this point, innumerable qualitative and quantitative studies.
Each study lays bare inequities so stark as to resist any quibbles over data points here and there, leaving little question of the cavernous gulf of disparities across every sphere of our current culture. These studies were crafted by scholars who so dispassionately studied this question, at so many different angles that there should hardly be a matter for any serious debate. There can be no serious, both-sides-ism of this question. Disparities, cavernous ones, exist.
It is so that white male history, achievement, histories, and thought, is prioritized and exulted in the academy. As such, we in academia become part of the machinery of ideology, and thereby become a mechanism to propagate these perspectives. We can, and some of us are, taking concrete steps to overturn and disrupt these systemic inequities. This project is one such effort.
While, I believe we waste valuable time and resources debating the question, I present one of many such qualitative and quantitative investigations. In a paper, Why is My Curriculum White? Michael Peters (2015) wrote, “question pointing out the lack of awareness that the curriculum is white comprised of ‘white ideas’ by ‘white authors’ and is a result of colonialism that has normalized whiteness”. The numbers bear this perspective out. A study conducted in 2018 led by undergraduate students at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), found that only 3.5% of authors assigned to students were racialized, and only 15.45% were women. Quantitatively, the knowledge being shared with undergraduate students is still, in 2018, is mainly that of white males. The study authors said of their effort: “(we) wanted to show who really owned freedom of speech, and to whom it was denied at a systemic level”
As a cultural scholar who has spent years in corporate Canada, and subsequent years in academia studying the question of inclusion, equity and diversity in cultural spaces, I know white supremacy underpins, informs and drives our educational systems, institutions and cultural practices. It is the thread that makes up the fabric of Canadian society. Full stop. Those of us who live in Canada are, wherever we are, are standing or sitting on stolen land. This project is, again, an effort to provide an open educational resource that showcases the achievement of the Iroquoian civilization, and celebrates the culture of First Nations people
eskonyen’ – Until next time (I’ll see you again)
- Maracle, L. (2017). My conversations with Canadians. ↵
- Michael A. Peters (2015) Why is My Curriculum White?, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 47:7, 641-646, DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2015.1037227). ↵
- Pedram, A. (Jan. 14, 2019). White Man Science: Polling Race and Gender in Political Science Syllabi, McGill Daily, Retrieved from https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2019/01/white-man-science/, Retrieved on June 11, 2020 ↵