Stream of Consciousness on Racism in Canada

Watching an old movie with my daughter led me down a stream of consciousness about race and culture and prejudice that reminded me of some texts that could be useful in the teaching of character analysis or persuasive writing.
I was watching the old John Grisham film A Time To Kill with my daughter. In the film, newly minted Klu Klux Klan followers plant a burning cross on the lawn of a lawyer defending a black man. My daughter asked a very sensible question, that I’d never processed before, she wondered how a burning cross became a symbol for white power.

This led to a Google search which led to a Wikipedia article and the uncomfortable discovery that the most recent example of a racist cross burning mentioned in Wikipedia happened in Nova Scotia in 2010.

That story reminded me of a terrific Radio Lab podcast about a young woman who rejected her family’s imposed identity (her mother’s birth certificate listed her as “negro”) and adopted a new identity for herself as a white woman in a high school full of racial tension.
And finally, that story reminded me of a pair of articles from last month about racism in Winnipeg.
None of these texts are particularly uplifting, but all challenge us to confront our stereotypes and prejudices.

As part of an examination of the depiction of character traits or an analysis of the inner conflicts faced by characters in short stories or novels I wonder if these stories / articles might provide some interesting fodder for discussion.

Ally’s Choice – Radio Lab podcast about racial divides in a family. The Radio Lab podcast challenges the scientific validity of the concept of race.

These two articles consider the reality of prejudice and injustice in Canada towards First Nations people: Winnipeg the Most Racist City in Canada and a rebuttal, Is Our City the Most Racist In Canada?

These could also be useful as part of a study of persuasive writing. Students could consider the reporters’ attempts to create a convincing arguments to support ideas.

Truth – Trust – Embarrasment

Is being perceived as a “sucker” worse than losing?  The British game show “Golden Balls” turned the psychological experiment “The Prisoners Dilemma” into 5 minutes of compelling television.  This Radiolab podcast ( )tells the story of an honest man who used dishonesty to trick an untrustworthy man into trusting.

This assignment page leads students into thinking about their perceptions of trust, honesty and shame and asks them to apply their thinking to texts they’ve read.


Courage – First Person Narrative

Flight Attendant Nicole Foran tells the story of protecting her passengers when trapped on plane with hijacker
From CBC Radio’s “DNTO” on Saturday an amazing first person narrative from Governor General’s Star of Courage medal recipient Nicole Foran.  

“A few years ago, 173 passengers and airline staff had a truly terrifying experience. After they boarded their Halifax-bound plane in Montego Bay, a lone gunman forced his way in to the cabin and held them hostage. Nicole Foran, one of the plane’s flight attendants, shares the amazing story of how they made it home alive.” 
CBC Radio’s “DNTO” May 3, 2014