Gabriela Novotna (University of Regina)


Topic: Critical Agency and Educated Hope as Tools for Dismantling Racism and Inequity Within and Beyond the Classroom

Language: English 


Inequities experienced by racialized students in postsecondary social work and other (so-called) helping professions, professions have been well documented. Racism is part of racialized students’ experience despite these programs’ assertions that equity and inclusion are at the heart of their mission, vision and academic offerings. Drawing on instrumental case studies of five racialized students in social work, education and nursing programs in a mid-sized Canadian university, we argue that the role of helping professions’ curricula is to dismantle racism and discrimination in the classroom and beyond.

Participants in this study reported experiencing individual, institutional and cultural-ideological racism in their programs, manifesting as racial microaggressions, Black body shaming, racial disparities in learning standards, and absence of non-dominant discourses and representations in the program curricula. Additionally, racism adversely impacted racialized students’ physical, mental health, and emotional well-being prompting withdrawal from courses or programs. Discussing the contradictions between their lived experiences and performative statements on anti-racist, decolonizing, and social justice-oriented approaches, racialized students gained tools to name and situate the racism they experienced within the context of hegemonic economic, political and social considerations. Higher education curricula must facilitate critical dialogue for education for critical consciousness as a foundational element of empowerment and development of critical agency and educated hope for active citizenship.