Presentation 3 - 16th International Metropolis Conference

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Fostering Welcoming Communities
By Resisting Backlash:
Learning from Student Leaders
Presentation at Workshop: “Youth Strategies and
Experiences of Migration and Integration”
16th International Metropolis Conference
September 2011, Azores
Dr. Darren E. Lund
Professor, Faculty of Education
Domain Leader,
PMC Welcoming Communities
Prairie Metropolis Centre
Domain Leader
Welcoming Communities:
The Role of Host Communities in Attracting,
Integrating, and Retaining Newcomers and Minorities
http://pmc.metropolis.net
Research Focus: Social Justice Activism
“direct action by a voluntary coalition of
students and teachers to raise awareness or bring
about social change toward eliminating racism and
other forms of discrimination”
Includes: organizing educational lessons or
programs, school or community displays, group
activities, awareness events, media campaigns, and
political engagement of students and teachers on
issues of “race,” culture, age, ethnicity, gender,
gender identity, sexual orientation, class, dis/ability,
appearance, and other markers of difference
Examples: social justice programs, multicultural
clubs, antiracism projects, intercultural events, action
groups, international programs, refugee support
initiatives
Definition:
Recent Social Justice Research
“Antiracism Toolkit: Building Capacity Among SchoolBased Activists” (2002-2004) AAME, CRRF
“Antiracism and Diversity Resources” (2004) Canadian
Heritage
“Fostering Acceptance and Integration of Immigrant
Students: Examining Effective School-Based
Approaches in Prairie Schools” (2004-2006) funded by
the Prairie Metropolis Centre
“Understanding School-Based Social Justice Activism”
(2004-2006) University of Calgary
“Intercultural Inquiry With Pre-service Teachers” (20052007)
- funded by the Prairie Metropolis Centre
“Examining Social Justice in Action” (2006-2009)
- funded by the Prairie Metropolis Centre
Current Social Justice Research
“Engaging Young People in Social Justice Activism: Insights
from Former Student Leaders”
(2008-2011)
- funded by the Prairie Metropolis Centre
“Engaging Student Leaders in Research on Social Justice
Activism”
(20011-2014)
- funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
www.ucalgary.ca/dtoolkit
“Engaging Student Leaders in Research
on Social Justice Activism”
Principal Researcher: Dr. Darren Lund
 Funder: SSHRC
 Research Assistant: Kari Grain

• critical analysis of engaging in social justice research
from the perspective of actual student leaders
• using duoethnography (Norris, Sawyer, & Lund, 2011)
the researchers seek insights from former school
activists
• follows critical anti-racist and multicultural research of
James Banks, George Dei, Paul Gorski, Carl James,
Sonia Nieto, Carol Schick, Christine Sleeter, and Patrick
Current Examples of Youth Groups
Photo taken at Calgary’s City Hall, just two blocks from
the 2009 National Metropolis Conference.
Image from the Calgary Herald.
Lindsay Thurber’s STOP Program
Students and Teachers
Opposing Prejudice
• diversity issues
• intercultural sharing
• multicultural education
• challenging racism & discrimination
• human rights promotion
• countering hate groups
• student social activism
• youth leadership training
• international development
• school violence prevention
• charity fundraising
• political lobbying
• world peace efforts
Freedom Fighter of the Month
March 2000
Students and Teachers Opposing
Prejudice
Definition of “backlash”:
n. 1. an adverse reaction to some political or social occurrence,
usually something new or liberal;
2. an antagonistic or hostile reaction to a trend or development
Forms of Backlash:
• Indirect resistance/denial of inequity & oppression
• Direct threats & challenges to social justice work
Verbal (telephone, personal)
 Written (email, letters, notes)
 Media (news articles, signs, websites, radio & TV
broadcasts)
 Legal (complaints, lawsuits)
 Other

Responding to hate in the community
Methodology:
Duoethnography
(Norris, 2008; Norris, Sawyer, & Lund, 2011)
Conversational approach to research
• a dialectic enquiry
• builds upon narrative, autoethnographic and
storytelling approaches
• personal history as a curriculum
• a “third space” invites readers into the conversation
• “bracketing in” vs. “bracketing out” the personal
• we are the sites for research, not the topic
• multiple viewpoints may intersect and contradict
Research Approach
• convenience sampling using Facebook to recruit
• 12 participants selected based on past leadership
• at least a year of school social justice activism
• mix of gender, age, background, identity, experiences
• one hour interview/conversations
Duoethnographic Interviews:
• conversational nature of the research creates more
readable and interesting work
• relationship more equitable as co-researchers
• eliminates the “researcher/subject” positions
• includes more informal language
• some additional vulnerability
• past common experiences enhance the dialogue
Themes emerging from the data:

Facing racism
Seema: People say, “Where are you from?” I’m Canadian, and if
I say, “I’m Canadian,” nobody listens. They’re like, “Really?!”
Darren: They’re like, “Come on, you know what I meant by that.
Don’t play this game with me; don’t make me be polite.”
Seema: Haha [laughing], yeah.
Chantal: My sisters are ten years younger than I am, so they’re
quite little, and when I was 15 or 16 and they were 5 or 6 we
would go out and people would sometimes freak out and start
thinking they were my kids and I was a “drunk Indian.” They
would kind of see what they wanted to see. I think they had
resentment towards aboriginal people. They see a girl who looks
like she might have been really young when she had kids, and
who has vaguely Eurasian/aboriginal traits, and they would just
assign that meaning. So I think it’s interesting to be able to
infiltrate, if you will, white people.
Themes emerging from the data:

Facing and resisting backlash from parents
Katie: (on high school activism): I can remember my parents also
not being really supportive of it.
Darren: Really?
Katie: Yeah, so looking back too, I did all that, I think that was my
first taste of doing things I cared about and having to just go
against, sometimes, what my parents wanted for me.
Darren: - which would be more mainstream?
Katie: Yeah and they saw it as a huge waste of time, like why am I
doing all these things all the time and getting involved in all this
stuff.
Darren: That’s interesting. At home I lived with a similar life to that,
like my parents never had strong social justice ideals. So this
work, even though they’re like, “good for you, you’re getting all
these accolades,” but not really supportive of the work itself.
Katie: That’s still kind of the stance they take. And I think it’s
foreign to them; they don’t understand it.
Themes emerging from the data:

Facing and resisting backlash from neighbors
Katie: We had one of the very first black people living in [our city]
lived with us and she was on an exchange, and she was our
babysitter, and I swear she was one of the first black people in
[our city] because people would stare. And we actually,
neighbours actually moved away from us. Our house was
always very diverse and we had foster kids and so on.
Darren: Right, so the activist group seemed to be a comfortable
home for the work you were already interested in?
Katie: Well and I think really it was a group that was truly inclusive
of diverse kids, and back then there was a lot of different
involvement, you know, it gave us a space to kind of connect.
Themes emerging from the data:

Facing and resisting backlash from the community:
Chantal (on forming a GSA in a high school): …but it wasn’t a real
GSA; it was a part of, it was a committee of the social justice
club.
Darren: And so was ours. Our first GSA ever in Alberta was under
our STOP umbrella and that’s how we –
Chantal: Exactly, right? And that’s how it was, like it was really
sneaky and we were like “we wanna be on our own” but then it
fell apart, there were no teacher sponsors. If you don’t have a
teacher to do it, in a school setting you need that backup.
Chantal: We’ve had some ridiculous stuff happen down at our
[Queers on Campus] office; we had a used condom stretched
over our door handle one day when we showed up.
Darren: This was here on campus?
Chantal: Here on campus this year. So like, there’s like a lot of
resistance, and that’s actually why we made those stickers,
because we just got “lesbos suck” written on one of our posters
Themes emerging from the data:

Facing and resisting backlash as a teachable moment
Linda: Sometimes people have misconceptions with things they
don’t understand and then it’s a teachable moment and in a
compassionate way, a nonviolent way, you can sometimes
change people’s perspectives. You’ve been exposed to an
alternative viewpoint.
Darren: Right, that’s very optimistic. And you can, I mean I think I
came to a lot of revelations around diversity, difference, racism,
homophobia, and sexism quite late in life.
Linda: And some people will never change their mind. But I think a
lot of times people’s minds do change. Even Klein [a right-wing
politician], I remember during the Vriend situation [a human
rights case] actually publicly saying he was quite ashamed at
the level of hate people were saying in his office. He was quite –
it made him sick, he actually said that – which was very
surprising to me, for Klein to say something like that.
Themes emerging from the data:

Growing critical awareness
Katie: I had already been exposed to things, so now I looked at
all this stuff with a critical eye. And often I find myself feeling that
I want something more radical, like, “We need to challenge this.
Look at all the problems with this”…
We were talking about this yesterday. [A friend and I] both have a
lot of friends who have done trips to Africa and what not. And I
think part of it is just that there’s a lack of education and
awareness about different issues. People come into university
and want to do something to help, and they sign up for an
agency and don’t ask a lot of questions, whereas I was doing
background research on questions like: What do countries think
of these non-profits that go in and build schools, and what are
the politics behind that, and where is the money going?
Themes emerging from the data:

Growing critical awareness
Linda: My view definitely has changed. I think I’ve become more
open to the possibilities of how things can be different and just
the wider range of views. The longer and the more that you’ve
had that range growing up, the more activism you’ll do….
they’re still doing things day-to-day and they’re having this
compassion now and standing up to things, and working for a
cause where it’s appropriate and so, I think those things happen
because of the values.
Darren: I hope so, and the value of building a democracy, too;
they’re just being more active citizens, they’re actually having a
voice, trying to change things that they see are wrong.
Linda: Yeah, writing their MP or MLA. I continue to do that; every
time there’s an election, I ask my key questions on the
environment and human rights and so forth. I usually will
present that to whomever I’m voting for to make sure we’re on
the same page. So it might be something behind the scenes that
people don’t ever talk about. So [former activists] are making
more informed decisions, more informed decisions about even
Themes emerging from the data:

Personal transformation
Chantal: As soon as you start thinking about how crappy racism
is, or how awful homophobia is, it’s kind of hard not to realize
they affect you. It’s hard to not become involved with that, or to
be okay with going back to those friends who are like, “Well, gay
people are gross anyway,” or “You’re the first coloured person
I’ve met,” or any of those stupid comments. It’s hard to go back
to that. Even if you don’t want to do anything about it, I think it’s
hard to be around that once you realize how awful those things
are.
Chloe: So now that I’m more involved, I’m more motivated to go
back to school. I find it’s really motivating when you see
something you started [continuing] even if you thought it was
something small.
“Engaging Young People in Social Justice Activism”
Other research issues emerging to date:
recruiting and communicating through electronic
social media (Facebook, email, texts)
 concerns over data lopsidedness
 seeking gender balance
 researcher/participant consistency
 compiling or managing data with multiple
participants
 generating insights for current teacher-activists
 finding policy relevance across several
dimensions of social difference

Selected References
Lund, D. E., & Nabavi, M. (2008). A duo-ethnographic conversation on
social justice activism: Exploring issues of identity, racism, and
activism with young people. Multicultural Education, 15(4), 27-32.
Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2008). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical
context of multicultural education (5th ed.). New York, NY: Allyn &
Bacon.
Norris, J. (2008). Duoethnography. In L. M. Given (Ed.), SAGE
Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods (pp. 233-236).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Norris, J., Sawyer, R., & Lund, D. E. (2011). Duoethnography: Dialogic
methods for social, health, and educational research. Walnut
Grove, CA: Left Coast Press.
Contact Dr. Darren Lund at
[email protected]
Tel: 403-220-7365
www.ucalgary.ca/dlund
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