EDPS 360 (A2) Fall 2013

Reel Racialization

In Uncategorized on November 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm

By: Kaitlin Filipchuk, Daneka Hrywkiw, Sean MacGregor, and Ryan Stephens
​Race and racialization are two very important terms but are also two extremely different ideas. While “race” is often used in everyday language, “racialization” is still somewhat unknown to many people. The term “race” is what people use as a descriptor of who they are and provides a sense of commonality, as well as a sense of difference, with others. “Racialization” on the other hand is a process of the identification of these races. The material from this week discusses different perspectives on race and racialization.
In the film titled, Reel Injun,
various film depictions of American Natives are examined. Throughout history, natives have been racially stereotyped and mythicized. These stereotypes were exploited by Hollywood, who often depicted Natives as “supreme horseman” who were routinely killed and defeated by white actors labeled as American heroes. It was interesting to see the mystification of Natives, similar to the Greeks and Romans. Natives were often classified as a collective whole, disregarding differences amongst differing tribes. Pocahontas becomes the embodiment of the American desire of what a Native is, furthering the stereotypes of American culture.
It was uncomfortable to watch Natives being exploited through summer camps that perpetuated negative stereotypes like natives being brutal savages. Over the weekend, I witnessed many people who dressed up as Indians for Halloween. All these costumes had one thing in common – they exploited common stereotypes of Native people. Oddly, or non-oddly (as the case may be), no other race was the subject of becoming a “Halloween costume.” Raising the question as to why it’s okay to dress up and exploit one race, while other races would instantly be deemed disrespectful and in poor taste. To me, and as the movie has suggested, this can in part be deemed a responsibility of Hollywood and the exploitation of Native stereotypes in film.
The film recalls Marlon Brando’s Oscar winning speech (http://youtu.be/2QUacU0I4yU). Marlon Brando uses his position as a successful Hollywood actor to bring to light the issue of Native exploitation, and the demeaning depiction of Natives in American society. It was interesting to see how this move enlightened the Natives fighting at Wounded Knee http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wounded_Knee_Massacre). Throughout American film history, Indians have been routinely exploited and misrepresented, thus perpetuating negative ideas of natives. Here is a video of Marlon discussing the treatment of Indians: http://youtu.be/J3YpTBDrgiY.
Just as Hollywood has exploited the racial stereotypes and mythicized them for our “entertainment”, so have both amateur and professional sports leagues and teams. These teams include baseball’s Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves, the NFL’s Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs, the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, and college teams the St. John’s Redmen, Marquette Warriors, and Stanford Indians. The issue of Native American racial slurs or inappropriate references being used as team monikers has been an issue that has gained steam over the past decade. The three college teams listed above have now become the St. John’s Red Storm, Marquette Golden Eagles, and Stanford Cardinal (yes, singular “Cardinal”). The five professional sports teams above, spanning three sports, have not been changed.
The Washington Redskins have been under fire recently because their name is essentially a racial slur. Native Americans speaking out have indicated that “redskin” to them is equivalent to the n-word for black people. There is a fight over whether the history of the name and the sports franchise should be considered more important than the fact that it is a racial slur.
A Huffington Post article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/grant-lyon/washington-redskins-name_b_4209976.html) discusses how the awareness of the offensive nature of the word Redskin is low because of the amount of people that it affects. Native Americans make up only about 1% of the 300+ million American population, so the prevalence of those truly affected by the term is limited. One individual is quoted as saying “I don’t know anyone that hates the word redskin.” I echo the journalist’s sentiments when he points out that just because you don’t know anyone who would be offended by it doesn’t mean it isn’t offensive.
I think it can be safely assumed that the Washington Redskins do not maintain their name because they enjoy offending approximately 3 million Americans every time they hear the team’s name. There is a massive amount of history surrounding the Redskins franchise, stemming from their inaugural season with the name as the BOSTON Redskins. Ironically, they were the Boston Braves for one year before changing their name. The problem with the justification for maintaining the Redskins name of it being a “badge of honour” and the fact it means so much to the Redskins fans (http://www.tsn.ca/nfl/story/?id=433752) and is a symbol of the team’s heritage is that it is essentially saying the pain of the Native American people is less than the worth of football memories (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/dc-council-calls-on-washington-redskins-to-ditch-racist-and-derogatory-name/2013/11/05/17cbbd66-4646-11e3-bf0c-cebf37c6f484_story.html).
Personally, I never thought of the Redskins name being offensive because I never put two seconds into thinking about it. To me, they are the Washington Redskins, and when I hear “Redskins”, the only thing that pops into my head is the Washington-based NFL team. I am sure if I spent some time thinking about it, I could have determined “Redskin” was a racial slur, but the word to me was only representing a football team – any other meanings were irrelevant. Now that I am aware of what it means, as much as it would be quite the shock to see an 80-year old NFL franchise have its name changed, there isn’t much else to do but change it. You wouldn’t see the New York Jews, Vancouver Chinamen, or “San Francisco Queer Bags”, as the Huffington Post article puts it, so why should there be the Washington Redskins? There is no New Orleans “N-Words”, so there shouldn’t be the Washington Redskins. As a side note, there is power in numbers – the number of people who would be offended by the “n-word” is much greater than those who would be offended by “Redskin”. That is a huge part of why the “n-word” is the “n-word” and we don’t yet say the “R-word”. Your thoughts are welcome. Please post below.
Another example that relates directly to our class of future educators is the topic of teaching at a reserve school. The Northern Alberta Development Council Bursaries Program (http://www.benorth.ca/teacher-education.asp) is still in practice today, and third/fourth year Education students who agree to sign a three year contract in a Northern community can recieve up to $8,000 dollars a year. As Steinhauer explained in the article, reserve schools often get bad teachers, and I believe this grant is the provincial government’s’ way of providing an incentive and attracting teachers to the Northern Alberta area. There are also rumors that in the Education IPT program, they are removing Literacy in the content areas class and replacing it with one that educates future teachers on Native perspectives. This would include aboriginal ideas/lifestyle/etc. in the curriculum. This class would be extremely beneficial to the teachers planning on working on a reserve or up north, or even in a city school with a high FNMI student population. The question remains, why is there a monetary incentive to get well-qualified teachers to teach at reserve schools? In the comments below, explain why or why not you would choose to teach at a reserve school and what influence the monetary incentive has on your decision.

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  1. I agree with the need to be sensitive and respectful of other cultures however your argument for why is fairly flawed. For the examples “Queers, Jews and Chinamen” were used without hesitation. I believe there populations is far closer to the number of African Americans than Aboriginals. So to suggest that offence of a racial slur is purely a numbers game is very bold.
    I’m not disagreeing with your overall point, but there needs to be some consideration to how accepting society is of the different types of racial slurs. Whether that is desensitization or something else it affects how the topic will be approached in a classroom discussion.

  2. I’m not sure that they’re really suggesting that the offensiveness of the comment is correlated to the number of people offended. It was more of an attempt to explain why a change hasn’t occurred yet. With lower numbers you have less people who take offense and, as a result, a smaller outcry to have it changed. This article seems to be trying to find reasoning for the continuous existence of these slurs (especially in such a popular venue). One potential reason brought up is that their is such slight resistance to the name, that they feel they can keep it without any repercussions.

    To answer the question brought up in this post, I believe this monetary incentive exists because of the lack of teachers they are able to recruit. This scarcity of teachers may be due to the potential challenges that come with working at these schools. For example, moving from the city to a more rural area may be a challenge for some teachers as they are required to adapt to a different standard of living. As a result, they may not feel it is worth the effort to work in these schools, especially with other options available. For another example, in places like Fort McMurray (from what I understand), they have a higher costs of living (e.g. house prices) which may play a large part in these decisions for teachers.

    These are just a few of many potential challenges but, in the end, I think it becomes a question of: how much you want to help and be their for students who need it vs. what you’re willing to give up to meet those goals. In this sense, I could see these incentives being effective (and potentially necessary) ways for bringing in new teachers.

  3. As far as education goes, I think it’s very important to understand that we all racialize without being racist. I mean who can honestly say that they do not every notice a race in the classroom and in everyday life? At the risk of sounding like a racist and being misinterpreted, Hollywood, our current societal norms, and our history (both world and Canadian) has created citizens that are very conscious of race. We have been raised to be consistently conscientious of race in the world around us, as well as how we speak and/or act around those of various races. For example I have a roommate from India who moved here 5 years ago and, for him, coming here meant disregarding a lot of his Indian traditions and conforming to Caucasian norms. He has even changed his accent so as to speak more “Canadian” and refuses to speak in his native tongue, or with his “Indian accent” because he doesn’t want to confuse the former. Along the same sort of lines, I can recall a conversation between my roommate and I about choosing seats on the train. We have both faced situations in which we get on the train and in front of us are two seats on either side of the aisle…one with an African Canadian woman and an open seat, the other with a Caucasian woman and an open seat…we have both chosen to sit beside the African Canadian woman in hopes of not appearing, or feeling, racist towards her. Is this racism? I would argue that it is not, but rather racialization and a direct result of the consistent reminders in society of who Caucasians are, who African Canadians are, Who East Indians are, who FNMI are and the consistent talk/gossip/newspaper headlines/campaigns focussed on racism. Again, bringing it back to education, when you create a society of awareness (which does have a lot of great benefits) you create schools that cannot avoid racialization. Even the process of purposefully being equal to all students is racialization, because you are still recognizing the various races, groups, and people within the class. Racism is entirely different.

  4. I hope Josh helped you understand a little better what we were trying to say, Michael. We never said it was “purely a numbers game”. The argument wasn’t even really based on the “numbers game” point, that was just a byproduct of the discussion that I thought would be interesting to point out. And whether it is a driving force behind why the team still holds the name or not, it is hard to ignore the evidence that there could a strong correlation behind the sensitivity to the word Redskin and the population of Native Americans.

    As for your point asking what causes the differing perspectives on these racial slurs – desensitization, etc. – I wish I could have delved into that more, but that would have necessitated much more research and an allowance of considerably more than 500 words! I wanted to keep it short and relatively bare, focus more on the concrete details, and then hopefully elicit some sort of response on here. Mission accomplished!

    Thanks for the reply.

  5. In regard to the whole NFL name changing debacle with the Red Skins, I have just a few questions: is there a certain number of people who must be offended before a name change is enacted? If this is the case then must the name be associated with some form of racial or cultural insensitivity? What if exactly 500 people including myself are a part of a group that finds that Patriots name/ brand to be offensive? No, there may not be any kind of insensitivity behind this name, but if we are offended should the team’s name be changed?
    I guess my point is, I think it’s hard NOT to offend at least someone regardless of intention in almost any situation. Maybe there are some FNMI whom are offended by the team name, but what about those who see it as a tribute, would changing the name be seen as a slap in the face to those individuals? What about those that are indifferent? Were the owners searching for cultural insensitivity when they named the team? I think people can turn any word, phrase, or name into something negative and in this context the Red Skin moniker is being used in a way that does no such thing. Should the team be renamed? I don’t know, but why can we not see the phrase Red Skin as something positive? It’s funny how once a word is ‘soured’ by the general population there is almost never an instance of going back. I realize that this is a bit of a tangent, but it’s true. When I think Red Skin I think of a team name that suggests meaning – strong, passionate, culturally rich warriors, but maybe that’s just me.

    As for the question posed, I think as future educators, we are all hoping to do our best to change the world for the better. I think a lot of us hope to have a significant impact on our students, we hope they may take something from us each and every day. With this all being said, I think we are also human. By placing an individual in a situation where they may have little impact, may eventually burn out (at a much faster clip than they otherwise would), or are simply unable to meet goals, you are essentially limiting that individual’s development, especially if that individual is a first year teacher. That is not to say that teachers that work on reserve schools are bound to fail, I am simply suggesting that the workload of these individuals may be much higher due to a legacy of our educational system failing our FNMI peoples. I think the system needs to change before we can assume that any significant progress can be made. If you look at the dropout rate of new teachers within the first few years of teaching, it’s actually quite disheartening and I would hazard to guess that a good percentage of those who teach on reserve schools within the first few years of completing their BEd are likely to be among those dropping out. As nice as a hefty ‘bonus’ would be to teach in these communities, I do not think it is the answer, and if anything, I think a lot of teachers may be taking these jobs for a quick pay-day before leaving after a year or two. For me it’s not necessarily a monetary thing, it’s knowing that I have a real opportunity to succeed while also loving my job.

  6. In response to the question posed: It is very interesting to me that a good number of professions offer more money for people who are willing to go work directly with FNMI people or just in the community generally. My roommate who just graduated from the U of A nursing program was offered almost double of her regular nursing wage to take her practice up north. When I really think about it, I understand that the population of people who live up there is no where near ours, so they do need professionals to work with people to give them an education, or health care, that can help make their quality of lives better. But I think that there is a terrible stereotype associated with the students who live in these sorts of areas. I have heard that the behavioral and academic problems are so hard to deal with that they need to compensate professionals appropriately in order to deal with these problems. I think this claim is completely outrageous, and completely wrong. I’ve been around enough classrooms and school to realize that these problems or behaviors are not specific to a certain culture. All kids have the tendency to talk out, misbehave, swear, or even throw a chair across the room if they feel so inclined. These behaviours can be seen across all cultures, not just in FNMI communities.

    For myself, I wouldn’t have a problem teaching at a primarily FNMI school. Same goes for any other school that has a dominant culture other than mine. I think we can all learn a great deal from differences in communities and our eyes can be opened to consider different view points or opinions. However, I do think that FNMI students would benefit from someone teaching them who is more educated around their culture and lifestyle. Everyone learns differently, and learning ability can be greatly influenced by the environment that we grow up in. So I think that someone who shared this environment and understands their culture would be able to teach and help these people to succeed better than I could. Which is why I do think it is a good idea to introduce programs that do help us better understand our FNMI learners. These can give us strategies that can help them succeed and perhaps continue on to help educate other learners in their own community.

  7. I agree with the comments that before this class specifically and some of my other education classes I had never given much thought to the names of sports teams. To me the Chicago Blackhawks for example was a hockey team and I saw no negative implications of the name. However, now having gained more knowledge of FNMI peoples I can understand how the sports teams names are racial slurs and are not appropriate. Yes, some of these sporting teams have a long legacy however the history of FNMI people in North American expands a much greater time scale. Therefore, I feel the rights and needs of the FNMI peoples should come before the name of a sports team.

    I understand why the government has put an incentive of $8000/year for educations students signing a three-year contract in a northern community. These northern communities are often sparsely populated or have more of a temporary job-oriented community rather then a place of settlement. These features make the Northern communities less desirable for young teachers that are thinking about finding a place to settle into for a couple of years and establish themselves possibly with the goal of raising a family or being near their family. As a result this incentive may attract more of these young teachers to take a position in a northern community. The incentive may also be in place to help with some of the cost of living in a northern community such as commuting. The incentive is a good way to try to attract more young, well-educated, dedicated teachers to the northern communities.

    I honestly would prefer to work in a smaller community then in a large city so if offered a job in a northern community I would really consider it. I would not be looking at the position because of this money however. I will work in a small community and with a largely FNMI classroom population without needing extra incentives. However, I feel I am not qualified to be teaching a largely FNMI student-base. I know little of their lifestyle, culture and beliefs thus I feel there are many others who would be better qualified and do a much better job of educating and motivating these students to change their future.

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